“Mother and Child,” by William Zorach

A Reputation Carved in Stone

Artist and FDU graduate Paul Von Ringelheim, BS’58 (R), once declared that “Fairleigh Dickinson was one of the forerunners of art in public places.” His authority on the subject cannot be questioned. His “World Peace Screen,” a 50-foot sculpture originally displayed at the 1964–65 New York World’s Fair, has graced the University’s Teaneck-Hackensack Campus since the closing of the fair. In fact, FDU commissioned the Vienna-born artist to create the sculpture, his first major work. Today, it is one of many sculptural gems residing on the campuses.

Teaneck-Hackensack Campus

One of the campus’s most prominent works is “Epic of America,” which hangs on the face of the Weiner Library. The casting was created by artist William Zorach, whose work has been displayed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, among others. Zorach described the symbolism as follows: “The Indians that possessed this land ... left us a rich heritage — We are all sun worshippers, loving life and the great forces of creation, renewed each day and yet never the same.” The flags represent all the flags that “have flown over this country until we were all united under one flag.” The woman represents America itself, beautiful and full of fertile promise. And the man and child represent “the spirit of enterprise and education, leading the new generation to carry on the work of today into the new visions of tomorrow — the new age flowing into life.”

Weighing a massive 1,950 pounds, the sculpture covers an area of approximately 30 by 32 feet and was acquired from the artist for the cost of its casting (about $20,000) after its commissioner, The Bank of the Southwest, Houston, Tex., rejected the artwork as “too modern.”

Another work by this Lithuanian-born artist is on display inside the library greeting students as they ascend the stairway to the main reading room. “Benjamin Franklin” is the original stone carving enlarged and cast in bronze in the mid-1930s for the U.S. Post Office in Washington, D.C.

“Epic of America,” by William ZorachAlso at the library, “Mothers of Birmingham,” a four-piece bronze collection by Teaneck artist Erna Weill immortalizes the mothers of four black children killed in a 1963 bombing of a Brimingham, Ala., church. The grouping, donated to the University by the artist, was exhibited in the New Jersey Pavilion at the New York World’s Fair in 1964. Other sculptures displayed in the library are a bronze replica of the Greek sculptor Myron’s “Discobolus” (discus thrower) and an original Benjamin Franklin bust by Jean Antoine Houdon, first exhibited in the French Salon in 1791.

Another work by Zorach, “Mother and Child,” is the centerpoint of the admissions circle. This bronze casting of the 1940 work was donated to the University by industrialist, philanthropist and connoisseur of art Saul Rosen and his family. Rosen, a former member of FDU’s Board of Fellows and its Fine Arts Committee, has donated several works of art to the University.

Former University president Peter Sammartino and his wife, Sylvia, were well-known art aficionados. Private collectors, they donated “Girl Washing Her Hair,” by Hugo Robus, to the University in 1981 in honor of Dr. and Mrs. Joseph Muscarelle. The sculpture now stands in the lobby of the Muscarelle Center for Building Construction Studies. The piece is one of four original bronze castings and was acquired from the artist in 1961. Originally made in plaster and displayed at the Museum of Modern Art in the 1940s, the sculpture was said to have embodied the essence of modern art.

Recently brought to the campus from the former Rutherford Campus was “Monument to Genius.” Sculpted by the Swedish artist Carl Milles, the piece previously was in front of Sammartino Hall in Rutherford.

Florham-Madison Campus

The Florham-Madison Campus was also the recent recipient of art from the former Rutherford Campus. The statue of Ulysses, now outside the Roberta Chiaviello Ferguson and Thomas G. Ferguson Recreation Center, was purchased for FDU in 1964 by the Sammartinos from the estate of its sculptor Ivan Mestrovich, whose son Matthew was a member of the FDU faculty teaching history and political science. The piece originally stood in the plaza between the Castle and Messler Library, while a duplicate was made for the Teaneck-Hackensack Campus, where it still stands outside the Edward Williams Building. Interestingly, former FDU trustee Aubrey Lewis posed for Mestrovich while he was sculpting Ulysses as an artist-in-residence at Notre Dame University, where Lewis was a student at the time.

Also recently received at the Florham-Madison Campus is “Mother of Bird,” which too was previously on the Rutherford Campus. The piece was sculpted by Austrian-born Chaim Gross, who emigrated to New York City in 1921.

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