Mississippi College

MC Remembers Lina Song with New Sculpture

June 25, 2008

Mississippi College will soon unveil a bronze sculpture of the late Lina Song, a graduate student from China who built many friendships in the MC family. It's the latest MC tribute to the 27-year-old who was struck by a car and killed last fall.

Nationally celebrated artist Sam Gore expects to finish the 35-pound work in a few days and put it on permanent display in the Leland Speed Library.

"It is more of a memorial to a special person," Gore said when the longtime MC art professor visited his alma mater earlier this week. "She communicated with a smile. She was a pleasant, sweet girl. I felt her friendly presence."

Ironically, Song posed for Gore in an MC graduate sculpture class shortly before her tragic death on September 13, 2007. The beloved graduate student died soon after she was struck by a car as she walked along U.S. 80 in Clinton late that fall evening. Gore finished the original sculpture before she died. He will pour the bronze to complete life-sized bust this weekend.

"We didn't want to leave a clay piece," Gore said of the art work. "Bronze is permanent," he noted. "It will get more of a message to the Asian students to show we care for them. A portrait sculpture in bronze is a much stronger statement."

The new sculpture captures Song's image in much the same was she was fondly remembered by classmates and educators. She forged many friendships on and off campus during her one year as an MC student. "It's not a big smile, but there is a pleasant look on her face," Gore said.

The MC community and family members, including her parents, packed Provine Chapel for a memorial service that was a salute to the life of a beautiful young woman with unlimited promise. The service was translated into both English and Chinese. Words about her accomplishments, kind spirit and legacy brought many to tears.

"We will always remember Lina as such a good, hard-working girl," said Ken Qiu, president of the International Students Association and one of 250 MC students from China. "She was always nice to her friends. This is a good memorial and a way so everybody can show their respect to her."

Jim Brackenridge, director of MC International Programs, Gore and President Lee Royce recently met with Song's parents in Clinton. Song's parents approved of the new sculpture. For Lianfang Wang and Xifeng Song, who both live in Virginia, "we wanted to tell them we've not forgotten about their daughter," Brackenridge said.

MC's international programs office commissioned Gore, a 1951 MC graduate with a national and international reputation in art circles, to do the work, Brackenridge said.

MC honored her life in other ways. MC established the Lina Song Memorial Scholarship. Wayne Parker, CEO and chairman of the Lifeshare Foundation in Jackson, was deeply moved by the memorial service on the Clinton campus. As a result, Parker and the LifeShare Foundation donated $50,000 to create the scholarship going to Chinese students attending MC. MC graduates Sam Anderson of California and Louis Lau of Texas were among others making gifts. MC awarded six scholarships in the spring. More awards will be made this fall.

Lina Song was scheduled to graduate from MC with a master's in health services administration in May 2008. She was due to take a position with the National Institutes of Health after working as an intern with the federal agency in Washington. The scholarships are up to $1,000 per student.

Gore has crafted a number of sculptures during his distinguished career spanning five decades. He's depicted Jesus, Moses and others. But he said work to craft the Lina Song sculpture at the Christian university was "quite an experience for me."

So was meeting Lina Song's parents. During their visit to the MC campus, "I just hugged them," Gore said. "I shared their grief."

The unveiling of the sculpture should be in early July at MC's Leland Speed Library.

PHOTO: Lina Song

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