March 1, 2012

Meet Galen the Gargoyle

Galen looks to the future from his perch in the Vice Chancellor's office. Photo by Susan Urmy.

Galen looks to the future from his perch in the Vice Chancellor's office. Photo by Susan Urmy.


by John Howser
After sufficient time to acclimate to his new perch within the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs, a name has been chosen for the Medical Center’s gargoyle. More than 140 creative suggestions were submitted for the Vice Chancellor’s Name the Gargoyle contest.
The winning name of ‘Galen’ was submitted by Carolyn Truscott in the Office of Medical Center Special Events.

Truscott chose her submission after Claudius Galenus, the greatest physician of the Roman Empire.

Galenus, also known as Galen of Pergamon, is admired as a brilliant anatomist and one of the most accomplished medical researchers in antiquity. Galen contributed greatly to numerous scientific disciplines including anatomy, physiology, pathology, pharmacology and neurology, as well as philosophy and logic.

Galen’s skills as a physician were so legendary he became the personal physician to several Roman emperors, including the great Marcus Aurelius.

Galen the gargoyle is a 5-foot tall, solid alabaster icon of Vanderbilt’s past. From 1905 until 1960, Galen the gargoyle was one of eight such beasts perched atop the clock tower on Kirkland Hall. As Kirkland underwent renovation and a facelift in 1960, Galen and the other seven gargoyles were removed when the building’s architectural style was changed. Some gargoyles were damaged or destroyed during the renovation process while a few survived intact and were placed in storage under Greer Stadium.

Popular with fraternities and sororities, some of the remaining gargoyles wound up as frat house mascots and were also spotted at other nearby residences, businesses and even at far-flung locations out of state. In the late 1970’s the University began an effort to reclaim the gargoyles as a part of its history. From this effort only two intact gargoyles and one partial beast found their way back home to campus—Galen being one.

Since his retirement from six decades spent serving as a rain spout protecting the foundation of Kirkland Hall, and subsequent travels to locations unknown in the years since, Galen has settled into a more comfortable routine within the Vice Chancellor’s office where he has become the official mascot and celebrator of holidays. Frequently seen wearing festive attire supporting Vanderbilt Athletics, seasonal holidays and other special occasions, Galen has found a new home where he is well tended and his contributions to office morale are well-celebrated.

As grand prize winner of the Name the Gargoyle contest, Truscott wins lunch with Vice Chancellor Jeff Balser. Because there were multiple submissions for the runner-up name selections there are 10 runner-up prize winners. Runner-up prize winners are: Lynette Gillis, Christy Vermillion, Susan Stockell, Fran Stewart, Duff Green, Darrell Dunn, Karen Munyon, Emily McNew, Wanda Bilbrey and Sharon McMahon.

Each runner-up prize winner will receive a gift bag of Medical Center logo items. Runner-up prize winners can visit Galen and collect their gift bag from Barbara Carter in the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs, located at D-3300 Medical Center North.