Emotions eventually fizzle and memories gradually fade. In an effort to maintain some potency and longevity with these fleeting elements of human nature, Barton psychology instructor Rick Bealer has donated a cougar statue to the college “In loving memory of his son, Ryan J. Bealer,” who passed away in 2011.
Ryan attended Barton and logged more than 20 hours while he was still in high school, and before that, he was a part of campus as early as 6 years old along with his brother, Zach. The duo would tag along with their father when he would have to work an hour or two on weekends.
“They would go to a classroom, write on the board and pretend they were teachers. Ryan and Zach grew up on this campus,” Bealer said. “They have always felt comfortable on a college campus and around the people who work on this campus.”
After Barton, Ryan attended Kansas State University.
“I have told several people, Ryan liked being a Wildcat, but he was a Cougar before he was a Wildcat,” he said. “That’s another reason I bought the statue, because I truly like Barton’s mascot. In Native American lore, the cougar or mountain lion is a ‘power animal.’ It is cunning and powerful and intelligent. Yes, and solitary. Ryan was intelligent and, often, solitary. But more importantly, he loved animals – and animals loved him. For lack of a better word, he ‘connected’ with them. They seemed to know that he was not who would hurt or trick them.”
The cougar is currently on display on the north side of the Union on campus near a seating area and flower garden.
Bealer’s donation and inscribed plaque will certainly be a feature of campus for years to come, serving both as a monument to Barton and its mascot, and to Ryan’s memory.
“No one wants to be forgotten,” Bealer added. “We want to know that people will always remember us and our contributions and our unique attributes. At times, my heart almost breaks when I think that Ryan will be forgotten. With each death anniversary, we think that the memory has ‘faded’ and we are anxious about that prospect. So, this sculpture is a way of honoring Ryan and remembering him.”