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Seppo Aarnos, 1937-2016

Famed sculptor and creator of the TCU Horned Frog rubbed for luck, died in October.

Seppo Aarnos

Sculptor Seppo Aarnos (right) and daughters Lana Aarnos Jackson ’86 (left) and Reba Aarnos ’88 pose with Aarnos 1984 TCU Horned Frog sculpture in this photo that ran in the Summer 2012 TCU Magazine. (photo by Glen E. Ellman)

Seppo Aarnos, 1937-2016

Famed sculptor and creator of the TCU Horned Frog rubbed for luck, died in October.

Internationally known sculptor Seppo Aarnos — creator of the beloved TCU Horned Frog, a campus landmark whose nose has been rubbed for good luck by decades of students — died in October.


Private collectors coast to coast and around the world own his artworks, and Aarnos leaves a legacy of nearly two dozen public outdoor sculptures throughout Texas, including Rendezvous at Ridglea Country Club in Fort Worth, said his daughter Reba Aarnos ’88.

Aarnos also cast the bronze Horned Frog for the top of TCU’s ceremonial mace used at commencement. But it is the fierce TCU Horned Frog sculpture, guarding the Sadler-Reed mall area since August 1984, that most alumni remember best. In October 2014, The Huffington Post even included the mascot artwork among “The Most Loved Statues on College Campuses.”

“My dad was a bedrock of unconditional love in my life, and it’s been so hard losing him,” said Reba Aarnos. “But at TCU, there’s this legacy — of his passion for art and family and this joy he had in creating a piece for his daughters’ alma mater. A continuing legacy thousands have shared through decades of family photos and traditions. It means everything.”

“I wanted them to be a part of something that would be there for a long time.”
Seppo Aarnos on etching an L and R on the TCU Horned Frog statue


Born on March 24, 1937, in Jyvaskyla, Finland, Aarnos moved with his family to the Chicago area in 1953. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps and was an art educator in Illinois and Texas for 36 years. The prolific artist, who lived in North Richland Hills, Texas, opened his studio in 1962. He died Oct. 8, 2016.

In the 1980s, when the permanent improvements committee of TCU’s House of Student Representatives was seeking local artists to create a sculpture to celebrate the school mascot, Lana Aarnos Jackson ’86, a student at the time, suggested her father.

In a Summer 2012 Mem’ries Sweet feature in TCU Magazine, Aarnos said he was eager to do the job in honor of his Frog daughters. “They both loved TCU and were proud of their school, and I wanted to help,” the artist told the magazine. “It’s dedicated to them. I wanted them to be a part of something that would be there for a long time.”

Aarnos hid an etching of an “L” and “R” on the statue’s neck in honor of his daughters, Lana and Reba. Refusing payment for the artwork, Aarnos only charged TCU for the raw materials.

For a “Your Own Words” feature in the Winter 2015 issue, TCU Magazine asked alumni to share stories about rubbing the statue’s nose for good luck, and Frogs responded in force. The outpouring touched Aarnos so much that he wrote to the magazine: “It was fun to read the comments about rubbing the Horned Frog’s nose. Spreading cheerful fun with my creation since 1984 warms my heart.” (Spring 2015 TCU Magazine)

Aarnos is survived by daughter Lana and her husband, Rick; daughter Reba; and grandchildren Grant Oviatt and Noelle Franklin.

 

Video by Makenzie Stallo for TCU Magazine