There’s nothing like being greeted by a friendly dog when you come through your front door. The staff in UGA’s Office of Undergraduate Admissions are very familiar with this concept. They are the proud new owners of their own friendly canine, a distinguished looking bulldog statue known as Terrell Archie Jackson.
Terrell—named after Terrell Hall, the UGA arch and Jackson Street (the address for UGA Admissions)—was brought to life by alumna Heather Ripley. Chosen for her artistic talent and vision for the design, Ripley beat out several other artists for the job of painting the latest of the 40 or so colorful fiberglass bulldogs that grace the UGA and Athens landscapes.
Athens is brimming with talented artists on every corner, so what makes this artist stand out from the crowd might surprise some. Ripley (BBA ’06, MAcc ’06) is a successful New York City tax attorney by day. When she closes the business shutters at night, the artist emerges.
“We got a ton of responses when we put out a call for artists on our Facebook page, including from some notable local artists,” said Melinda DeMaria, associate director of admissions for marketing and recruitment. “When I saw Heather’s response, I stopped.”
DeMaria, who previously coordinated the interview weekend for the Foundation Fellows program, remembered Ripley from her interview as a high school senior. She had made such an impression on DeMaria that she kept in touch with Ripley after graduating from UGA, on to Harvard Law School and into her professional career. While at UGA, Ripley proved herself as a worthy Foundation Fellow by taking advantage of several study abroad opportunities and absorbing herself in her studies enough to earn both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from the Terry College of Business in the same year. She was the quintessential student, balancing academics and a high GPA with campus involvement. So when DeMaria saw Ripley’s message of interest, she immediately recognized her.
“We communicated several times back and forth to make sure she understood what we were looking for. And quite honestly, we were skeptical because she’s a tax attorney,” said DeMaria.
Ripley sent the admissions staff to her personal artist blog that showcased some of her work. By the time Ripley submitted her formal proposal, they were sold on her talents.
“Heather was the only artist who not only followed the submission instructions exactly, but her design concepts were spot-on for what we were looking for.”
Ripley has been painting since the tenth grade at Woodward Academy in College Park, Ga.
“I’ve always kept up with my art. I actually sold a few paintings to my accounting professors while I was at UGA. I’ve toyed with the idea of art as a career, but just leaned more toward business and law.”
Ripley practices her talent in her free time, dabbling in charcoal, pencil, acrylics and oil pastels.
“Some of my artwork is commissioned, some pieces I do as gifts, and some are just for fun. It’s relaxing, it expands my mind. Tax law can be creative in its own way, but art stretches my mind in a different way, particularly with hand-eye coordination.”
Ripley was thrilled at being chosen for the project, so much so that the mild mannered tax attorney spent a full week on the UGA campus this spring painting Terrell pro bono.
“I just love UGA and the time that I spent here,” said Ripley. “I remember hanging out and being able to relax in Moore College and Brooks Hall between classes, and playing frisbee at the Intramural Fields. And of course, I loved going to the football games. So this is my way of giving back.”
Ripley’s affection for her alma mater is more than skin deep—UGA is a family tradition. Her parents met at UGA, her sister graduated from UGA, and her brother is a current student. She’s active with the New York City Alumni Association, so she gets to hang out with UGA friends at game watching parties. Spending a week in Athens to paint was a welcome reprieve from her daily demands as a tax lawyer.
“It was fun to have the week off,” she said. Then reconsidering, “Though it’s not really been a week off.”
She still managed to make phone calls and send emails to her international clients in Europe and to Alston & Bird colleagues in New York City while the layers were drying.
“I owe it to my Foundation Fellows experience for providing me with exposure to an education in different cultures, particularly with travel to Ecuador, Egypt, China, Italy, Spain and Cuba. I use this experience every day in my job. And my Spanish minor proves handy with my volunteer work with tax assistance for the Latino population,” she said.
All totaled, it took Ripley about 35 hours to paint the fiberglass dog. Decked out in a colorful mural that represents the UGA student experience, Terrell Archie Jackson features elements of the undergraduate experience, including applying online and touring through historic North Campus, the fireworks display of admission to and graduation from UGA, and a walk through the UGA arch. He stands proudly in the Terrell Hall lobby, waiting patiently for visitors to come through the door. Good dog.