Homecoming is always an exciting time of the year. This year it was chilly enough to pile on layers of orange and blue for the football game and droves of fans and alumni filled our campus. It’s always been a time filled with pride, nostalgia and good stories. Unfortunately as every visitor to campus knows, one of our most-recognized family members wasn’t able to join the festivities – Alma Mater.
The happy news is that Alma, Learning and Labor are in good hands and they’ll be home for good this spring.
Last Friday, at a panel held at Spurlock Museum, the main conservator assured our community that Alma would be back and ready to oversee our 2014 Commencement in May. And we now understand that her restoration was even more necessary than was originally thought.
We were surprised and disappointed by the level of disrepair. No one knew that underneath a statue that is the backdrop for countless pictures and so patiently endures climbing from students and visitors alike, was a decaying structure waiting to crack. And though I was disappointed that the Alma Mater wasn’t back for last year’s graduation celebrations, there was simply no other alternative to saving the statue. And I am so proud of our restoration team that is ensuring our iconic campus landmark will be greeting “thy happy children of the future” for generations to come. And I am also proud to say that the costs of this restoration are being covered through private gifts.
The statue is being refurbished from the inside out. Conservators are replacing corroding bolts that were holding the statue together with bronze ones that will stand the test of time. They are also removing the layers of corrosion and mold on the statue’s surface. This will restore the statue to the bronze color that sculptor Lorado Taft originally intended.
They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. We have seen that to be the case with the Alma Mater’s imposed vacation. This response even further solidifies the importance of conservation and maintenance. When she’s back, we are committed to ensuring her condition is under constant observation and that we take the necessary steps to maintaining such an important part of the Illinois experience.
The Alma Mater is far more than a bronze statue. Truly it represents Illinois in a special way and she really is considered a member of the Illinois family. It’s one of the first landmarks prospective students learn about. Pictures with Alma Mater usher freshman into a new, transformative world. Its presence in photographs from Mom’s Weekend, Dad’s Weekend, graduation and even weddings is a stamp of Illinois pride. And, of course, graduation photos with Alma have become one of our most visible and most-revered annual traditions.
It will be good to have her home again.
Around the campus
Good luck to Illinois student Tatyana McFadden as she competes in the New York City marathon on Sunday. If she wins, she will become the first athlete to win the "Grand Slam" of marathons in one year. Read more about Tatyana here.
Illinois was recognized by Insight Into Diversity magazine as a recipient of their 2013 Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award. Illinois was one of 55 schools honored by the magazine and received one of the highest rankings on this year’s list. Read the full story here.
Genome Day is nearly here! Join the Institute of Genomic Biology on Saturday, November 2, at the Orpheum Children's Science Museum, as they invite the community to learn about DNA, genes, genomes, and evolution in an approachable manner for all ages. View more details here.