Skip to main content

Swimming Retriever Greets Visitors to NC State’s Centennial Biomedical Campus



A commissioned public artwork, “The Swimming Retriever,” welcomes visitors to the College of Veterinary Medicine and the Randall B. Terry, Jr. Companion Animal Veterinary Medical Center on North Carolina State University’s Centennial Biomedical Campus.

Created by noted sculptor Jim Sardonis of Vermont, Swimming Retriever celebrates the human-animal bond and honors philanthropist Randall B. Terry, Jr. whose love of his nine Golden Retrievers led to his involvement with the College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) and his donation of $20 million to initiate the $72 million, state-of-the-art Terry Center.

Carved from one block of Brazilian “Carioca Gold” granite, the statue is the neck and head of a Golden Retriever who is carrying a stick in its mouth and appears to be swimming in an imaginary surface of water. The sculpture is about eight times life size, eight feet in length, and four feet in height. The seven-foot stick in the Golden’s mouth serves as a bench for visitors. On the back of the Golden Retriever’s collar is a large tag containing a relief image of Randall B. Terry, Jr.

A Terry Memorial Art Selection Committee, following the NC State’s Art Acquisition Process, selected “The Swimming Retriever” proposal after reviewing 37 pre-proposals and inviting four finalists to visit the CVM, discuss their concepts for the artwork, and then submit formal proposals.

“The committee felt that Jim’s approach best captured the human animal bond and Mr. Terry’s relationship with his Golden Retrievers,” says committee member Dr. Michael Davidson, who is a CVM associate dean and director of veterinary medical services. “We were intrigued by the concept of representing a dog at play and how visitors would be able to interact with the work.”

“I believe showing the Golden in the act of retrieving a stick, which has been thrown by its human companion, embodies the human-animal bond,” Sardonis says. “The concept depicts a happy and healthy dog in the act of joyful play, and allows one to imagine the area surrounding the sculpture as a lake, river, or pool. I understand that Mr. Terry’s dogs were enthusiastic swimmers who enjoyed his pool on a daily basis, and I wanted the sculpture to reflect that memory.”

According to Sardonis, the sculpture’s large scale is a “bold representation” of Randall Terry’s passion for his Golden Retrievers. Locating Mr. Terry’s image on the collar tag indicates his closeness to the cherished companions while keeping the focus on the dog and the unique responses the sculpture is expected to evoke in individual viewers.

Sardonis says he designed the sculpture engage the viewer’s imagination and encourage close-up interaction with the work. “My work is inspired by natural forms–human, plant, and animal,” he says.” I seek opportunities to use my work to emphasize the kinship and interconnectedness of all living things and the importance of the survival of each of them.”

Sardonis’ perhaps most recognized sculpture, “Reverence,” also uses the ground as an imaginary surface of water with the tails of two whales “diving” into a sea of grass. Other commissioned sculptures by Sardonis are located at New England Aquarium in Boston; Gifford Medical Center in Randolph, VT; Dartmouth Medical School in Hannover, NH; St. Michael’s College in Colchester, VT; University of Maine, Presque Isle; Andover Library in Andover, MA; and Champlain College in Burlington, VT.