The Masterpiece Unfinished: Remembering friend and artist Larry Nowlan

The Masterpiece Unfinished: Remembering friend and artist Larry Nowlan

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Sculptor of UI's Kinnick, Gable statues leaves behind legacy, family
Larry Nowlan with Kinnick sculpturePhoto courtesy of Rod Lehnertz.

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For the millions who will step onto the University of Iowa campus in the years to come, their visits will be made richer because of a man whose time with us was far too short. Larry Nowlan, 48, a nationally and internationally recognized sculptor, passed away Aug. 1 due to natural causes, shocking all of those who had come to know him.

Larry lived half a country away, in Windsor, Vt., but became a Hawkeye at heart when he made his first “research” visit to Kinnick Stadium in 2004, for a thrilling football victory over Purdue. A year later, the first of his four noted bronze sculptures on the UI campus was unveiled—Nile Kinnick.

In line with Larry’s design intent, Hawkeye Football Coach Kirk Ferentz soon made the 14-foot sculpture of Iowa’s 1939 Heisman Trophy winner a part of Iowa Football tradition, when he, followed by all the Iowa football players, stopped to touch the helmet at Nile’s feet, on the way into the stadium.

One year later, Larry’s largest work of art, and the largest bronze sports sculpture in the country, was installed near his first. This second piece, an 8,000-pound bronze relief, captures Kinnick scoring the winning touchdown against Notre Dame in 1939.

Swim relief sculpture
File photos by Tom Jorgensen.

Larry was invited back to campus for another relief sculpture, commemorating Iowa’s invention of the butterfly swim stroke (located at the Campus Recreation & Wellness Center) and finally, for a life-sized sculpture of Hawkeye wrestling legend Dan Gable (outside Carver-Hawkeye Arena).

Larry’s notoriety was growing rapidly and additional works of art included a statue honoring Philadelphia Phillies Hall-of-Fame announcer Harry Kalas, who happened to be a UI alumnus.

Donations to an educational fund for the children of sculptor Larry Nowlan may be sent to:
People’s United Bank
FBO Heather Nowlan,
50 North Main St.,
Windsor, VT, 05089

And yet, for all of the natural talent Larry Nowlan possessed, he was a greater person. Considered a friend by anyone who had the fortune to meet him, Larry was humble, witty, and disarming in his approach to everyone he met.

Larry leaves behind a beautiful family: Heather, his wife; daughter Monet, 7; son Teelin, 4. In the midst of the great challenge for them to understand and move on, an educational fund has been established for Larry’s children.

I am honored to have called Larry a friend and join so many others in gratitude for all he gave us.

Rod Lehnertz

Rod Lehnertz is the University of Iowa Facilities Management director of planning, design, and construction. He is also co-author of the book The University of Iowa: Guide to Campus Architecture, published in 2006.


Rod Lehnertz, Facilities Management, 319-353-2235


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