Scientist mannequin continues former TCU employee’s ‘unconventional’ legacy

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An eerie figure stands motionless inside a window of the Pre-Health Professions Institute office, eliciting an occasional scream from students. Clad in a white lab coat, gloves and goggles, the scientist mannequin in the Pre-Health office has often frightened students passing between the Sid Richardson Building and Winston-Scott Hall.

But the mannequin has another accessory—a tiny pink ribbon pinned on the lapel of its lab coat.

It’s a breast cancer awareness pin and serves as a reminder of Denise Bennett, a former academic program specialist in the Pre-Health program. She died in 2012 after a fight with breast cancer.

Bennett, known for her “carefree and unconventional” personality, placed the mannequin in the office roughly eight years ago, said Phil Hartman, dean of the College of Science and Engineering.

“She had a pretty frisky side to her and really enjoyed pepping up life,” he said, “Denise brought that in and just set it out there starting on Halloween, and it became sort of a permanent fixture.”

The figure, nicknamed “Jennifer,” has since become Pre-Health’s “unofficial mascot,” said Matt Chumchal, director of the Pre-Health Professions Institute.

“Often if you’re in [the office], you hear people scream from out in the courtyard,” he said, “or you’ll see people taking selfies with it through the window, so it’s a big hit for visitors.”

The figure has its way of terrifying students but Vanessa Norris, a graduate student in educational leadership, said Bennett’s act of placing a creepy mannequin in the office is not surprising.

“Denise was so sassy,” Norris said, “and she really kept us on our toes.”

Some students believe “Jennifer” is the reason for the strange occurrences that happen inside the office.

For example, an unusual number of crickets have been flying into the office, and the office’s printer makes “freaky noises” at night, junior biology major Laila Abdeljalil said.

Senior biochemistry major Rachel Walker believes the mannequin brings “ghosts” to the office.

“I think they’re attracted to his creepy face,” she said.

 

Although not every student remembers Bennett, Hartman said the mannequin reminds students to take life less seriously—something Bennett used to always remind others to do.

“I think about Denise when I walk by the office, just in general,” he said, “but I think that statue reminds me of her, and really, the zest she had for life.”

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