Gigantic lizard (snake?) finds a new home in Centre’s Young Hall
August 12, 2010 By Leigh Ivey
Young Hall is a mosasaur, one of the many tangible examples of
Centre’s commitment to the sciences.
The installation of the mosasaur was a process that spanned
The mosasaur belongs to John Hankla, son of Danville dentist
Jack Hankla (left). Throughout the years, the Hanklas
have allowed Centre to display many of their dinosaur fossils.
When Centre College’s newly expanded and renovated Young Hall opens its doors this fall, it will reveal more than new laboratories, classrooms and workstations. Greeting students and faculty members as they enter the new lobby will be a mosasaur, cast from the actual fossil of the dinosaur-like creature.
The mosasaur is on loan from John Hankla, son of Danville resident Jack Hankla. It is part of the impressive fossil collection that Jack and John Hankla have assembled over many years. Throughout the years, the Hanklas and collectors Danny and Kirtley Settles have enabled Centre to display part of their collections of dinosaur fossils (and fossils from other ancient reptiles, such as mosasaurs) and minerals.
“We wanted to share some of the wonders of natural science with the community,” Jack Hankla says, “and what better place to do it than Centre College? I have an enormous amount of respect for the College and what it offers to Danville, the state and beyond. This wouldn’t be the same place without Centre.”
Centre Stodghill Professor of Biology Mike Barton has been working with Hankla and the Settles, who have shared their amazing rock and mineral collection with the College, for several years. “They’re enthusiastic about sharing their tremendous collections with the College,” he says, “and we’ve arranged several displays of their collections on the campus.”
Centre had planned for the new addition to Young Hall to be “a sort of walk-through museum where both the Settles’ and Jack’s specimens could be displayed from the beginning,” Barton says. “In the new addition, everyone will see evidence of this in the display areas that have been built in. These will eventually be filled with an amazing assortment of minerals and fossils.”
The choice of the mosasaur hanging in the entry was Hankla’s.
“I thought this was a great idea,” Barton says, “because mosasaurs got very large and had a fearsome demeanor that makes for a great fossil display.”
Barton explains that mosasaurs demonstrate that not all large Mesozoic vertebrates were dinosaurs. The creatures are thought to be more closely related to lizards—in this case to the modern monitor lizards and Komodo dragons. And recent evidence has led some to theorize a close relationship to snakes.
It took several months to cast the mosasaur from the actual fossil. Then, the cast was delivered to the College in several pieces that could easily be assembled. Although the actual installation took only a couple of hours, the entire process of mounting the cast took several days.
“Wayne King and his facilities management crew came over one morning, and we did a test assembly and hanging to get the orientation and position right,” Barton says. “Wayne's crew was then able to install the ceiling cables to hold the fossil. A couple of days later, Wayne came back with his people, Jack Hankla showed up and we hung the beast up.”
And the mosasaur’s presence in Young Hall is certainly an impressive one.
“First,” Barton says, “it provides a most graphic example of Centre’s commitment to the sciences. And this is just the start of a very comprehensive installation of mineral and fossil material that will fill the display areas in the building.
“It also shows that the dedication and commitment of a few community members, in this case Dr. Hankla and the Settles, can be expressed in a way that is both dramatic and educational. They have long supported science education in the community, and this is just another example of such support.”