MTSU unveils bust of Nobel-winning alum by Wartrace sculptor

Tuesday, September 22, 2015
Sculptor Tracy Sugg of Wartrace and MTSU alumna Liz Bradley of Pearland, Texas, unveil the bronze bust of the late James M. Buchanan, an MTSU alumnus and university's first Nobel Prize recipient during the annual Buchanan Fellows Inauguration Sept. 18 in the James E. Walker Library. Buchanan's generous monetary gifts to the Honors College have enabled 20 freshmen annually to receive the coveted and competitive scholarship. Bradley is Buchanan's youngest sister. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

A long-awaited and much-anticipated bronze bust of the late MTSU alumnus James M. Buchanan was unveiled by his youngest sister and a nationally acclaimed sculptor during a special ceremony Sept. 18 on campus.

People attending the annual Buchanan Fellows Inauguration in the James E. Walker Library saw the unveiling of the 75-pound bust by Tracy H. Sugg of Wartrace. Called "Dr. James Buchanan, A Man of Vision" by Sugg, the bust's casting was performed by Bronze Services Fine Art Foundry in Loveland, Colorado.

As a lasting tribute to Buchanan (Class of 1940), an American economist who was the recipient of the 1986 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences and who died Jan. 9, 2013, the Honors College commissioned Sugg to create a clay bust that would eventually be turned into a bronze bust.

"We've been looking forward to the official unveiling," Honors College Dean John Vile said. "Tracy performed a wonderful job with the clay bust, but there's nothing like seeing the real thing."

Elizabeth "Liz" Buchanan Bradley of Pearland, Texas, joined Sugg for the unveiling of the bust that rests on a black walnut pedestal made by Highland Rim Woodcrafts, which is owned by MTSU alumnus Kevin Kelly (Class of '89) and his wife Melody of Tullahoma, Tennessee.

"Isn't that gorgeous?" said Bradley, addressing the audience with her initial reaction after viewing the bust. Bradley told Sugg her beautiful work "will be cherished."

After congratulating the Buchanan recipients for their achievements and earning the coveted scholarship, Bradley informed them the bronze sculpture of her brother ("he was always Buck to me") will be "a real symbol here for you."

Bradley, who earned three degrees from MTSU, and her brother grew up in the Buchanan community in Rutherford County. She worked in elementary education, retiring as principal of Homer Pittard Campus School.

Sugg accepted the challenge "to honor this brilliant, intellectual man and his work."

"A bronze sculpture elevates a man or woman to the highest element of nobility for humanity to see," Sugg said. "And I wanted this to inspire students who go to MTSU to realize 'I can have that impact (on mankind) as well.'"

Sugg's oldest son, Philip, graduated from MTSU in August after being in the first class of 15 Honors Transfer Fellows. Vile, his staff and the university began offering this transfer scholarship in 2013.

Just as she did in May 2014 when she spoke at the unveiling of the clay bust, Sugg gave a passionate talk regarding the backstory of Buchanan and the bust, which will remain on permanent display in Walker Library's Buchanan Family Reading Room.

A Rutherford County native, Buchanan graduated from what was then Middle Tennessee State Teachers College. He later completed a master's degree at the University of Tennessee and his doctorate at the University of Chicago.

Buchanan held teaching and research positions at the University of Virginia, UCLA, Virginia Tech and George Mason University. He authored hundreds of scholarly articles, published numerous books and received dozens of awards, including honorary degrees from colleges and universities throughout the world.

As part of the ceremony, Buchanan Fellows received a book of his essays.

The extremely competitive Buchanan scholarships, the highest financial aid award an entering MTSU freshman can receive, are named for the alumnus, whose estate gave MTSU $2.5 million in May 2013 following his death.

"His generosity both in life and in death has largely been responsible for the many extra benefits we have been able to provide to our Buchanan students," Vile said.

A stridently independent thinker, Buchanan earned the Nobel Prize for his development of Public Choice theory, which brings the tools of economic analysis to the study of public decision-making. Buchanan became the first MTSU alumnus to receive a Nobel Prize.

One of Bradley's sons, Jeff Whorley of Indianapolis, Indiana, serves on the Honors College Board of Visitors.

For more on the Buchanan Fellowship and transfer scholarship, go to or call 615-898-2152. The deadline to apply for the 2016-17 academic year is Dec. 1.