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updated: 9/23/2017 7:35 AM

War hero, WIU 'Leathernecks' legend, honored with statue

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MACOMB, Ill. -- The man behind the Fighting Leathernecks nickname at Western Illinois University will be memorialized in a campus statue.

WIU associate professor Art Duke Oursler created the Colonel Ray "Rock" Hanson statue. It will be unveiled during Homecoming weekend festivities Sept. 29.

Rock Hanson was a decorated U.S. Marine hero of World War I and World War II.

Hanson began a 38-year career at WIU in 1926. He was football, baseball and basketball coach, physical education department director and the school's longest-serving athletic director.

His persistence and Marine pride led to the adoption of the Leathernecks name and an English bulldog as mascot in 1927.

WIU alumni Jackie Thompson and her husband, Lt. Col. (Ret.) Dave Thompson, contributed substantially to the statue project. Jackie Thompson is a WIU vice president emeritus.

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