March 17, 2011

Contest seeks name for new Medical Center North guardian

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A contest has been created to name the gargoyle that is on display oustside the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs. (photo by Susan Urmy)

Contest seeks name for new Medical Center North guardian

An icon of Vanderbilt's historic past, a five-foot tall alabaster gargoyle, has crept away from its longtime perch within Kirkland Hall, made its way across campus and found a new home in the Medical Center.

The stone beast is now resting on its haunches, guarding over the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs in Medical Center North.

The Medical Center's newest resident dates back to 1905, when eight of the ornamental beasts were added to the top of the Kirkland Hall clock tower as the building underwent reconstruction after a devastating fire nearly destroyed the landmark. Gargoyles are used in architecture as tools to direct rainwater away from the sides of buildings and protect mortar between bricks.

The sculpture holds a special place in University history, as it is one of only two intact gargoyles to survive construction when Kirkland Hall was given an exterior facelift in 1961. The gargoyles, each weighing hundreds of pounds, were removed from the building's exterior for safety and aesthetic reasons. The other surviving gargoyle stands sentry in a University boardroom.

Upon removal from their perches in 1961, the remaining intact gargoyles, and pieces of those damaged during removal from Kirkland Hall, were stored underneath the football stadium until the University could find appropriate uses for them.

Since then, whole or partial gargoyles crept away during the 1960s and 70s, only to be spotted at various locations in nearby neighborhoods, fraternity houses and elsewhere. In the late 1970s an effort was made to call home the missing beasts, but only two intact and one partial gargoyle were recovered.

Commemorating the gargoyle taking up residence within the Medical Center, the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs is holding a “Name the Gargoyle” contest. Judges will be looking for the most creative names.

• Grand prize is lunch with Jeff Balser, M.D., Ph.D., vice chancellor for Health Affairs and dean of the School of Medicine.

• Three runner-ups will each win a prize.

• The contest is open to all Medical Center faculty and staff.

• All submissions must be made on or before March 31.

To submit entries for the “Name the Gargoyle” contest go to