In addition to the artworks in The Davis Gallery at Houghton House, two monuments by A. E. Ted Aub are on the main campus: William Smith, 2008 and Elizabeth Blackwell, 1994.
The Elizabeth Blackwell Memorial is located on the quad in the rear of Gulick Hall. The first woman to receive a medical degree in the United States, Blackwell came to Geneva in 1847 to study at Geneva Medical College, an ancestor to Hobart College and the only institution that would admit a female ‘pre-med’ to its all-male ranks. In a dedication ceremony for the sculpture on October 1, held in conjunction with the Kick-Off celebration for the Colleges’ capital campaign, President Hersh underscored the sculpture’s particular resonance for an institution defined by a coordinate philosophy.
“I believe we celebrate Elizabeth Blackwell because she represents us at our best.” She said, “as a real and tangible emblem of an institution that not only seeks to recognize and meet the need of women, but realizes that, in doing so, we recognize the worth of individuals, as individuals, and the worth of education for lives of service.”
For Aub, a member of the Colleges’ faculty since 1981 and an award-winning sculptor, the Blackwell project reflects more than four years of work as well as the vision and support of two administrations. For even an accomplished sculptor of the human body, the interpretive skills required in depicting the historical figure were considerable.
“For any artist, creating a portrait from life is a challenge,” Aub explained. “Creating a sculpture larger than life, of the full figure, seated, poses additional challenges. And doing all of this as a posthumous portrait was perhaps the most daunting prospect of all.”
Working from the few photographs of Blackwell available, as well as her diaries and biographical records, Aub set out to render her as she might have looked as a student in Geneva. “I thought that depicting her as a youthful figure might provide a common bond between this 19th-century woman and our students of today,” he explained.
I also felt it was important for the sculpture of her to depict the ideals of youth,” he added. “After all, it was, perhaps, her stubborn naivete that kept her going in the face of formidable resistance.”A bronze plaque, embedded in the walkway leading to the sculpture, carries an inscription composed by Dan Ewing, professor of art, noting Blackwell’s historic ties to the Colleges. Engraved in the sculpture’s granite base is an excerpt from a letter Blackwell wrote from Geneva in 1847, selected by Professor of English Deborah Tall: “I cannot but congratulate myself on having found at last the right place for my beginning.”
The William Smith Memorial is located on the Hill. On November 7, members of the Colleges community gathered to unveil and dedicate the sculpture of nurseryman, suffragist and educational proponent William Smith amidst a grove of autumnal trees on the Hill, surrounded by residence halls that have been home to William Smith women for the past 100 years.
The 6-foot, lifelike bronze statue was sculpted by A.E. “Ted” Aub, professor of art, using photographs of William Smith and models that included Christopher Slaby, a Hobart senior, and Ted Smith, William Smith’s great grandnephew who lives in Geneva.
“Today as we celebrate the foresight and vision of our founder, it is fitting that we dedicate this sculpture,” said Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees Maureen Collins Zupan ’72, P’09 at the opening of the ceremony. “We have come a long way in the 100 years since a local Geneva businessman had the vision to create a school for women at a time before women could vote. Now, William Smith, the statue, will sit proudly on our Hill to witness the next 100 years.”
“This statue is a gift from the men of the Board of Trustees to honor the women of William Smith, in recognition of the role William Smith women have played in the success of our Colleges,” said Patterson, after which the statue was unveiled to a round of applause and audible admiration.
Aub explained the challenges of creating the sculpture, including having very few likenesses of William Smith to work with, and his choices in how he depicted Smith.
“I found it inspiring that Smith, in his late eighties, undertook the immense task of starting a college. Therefore, I chose to depict him at the end of his abundant life. Though elderly, he is active – he moves slowly forward and upward.”
The statue shows Smith leaning on a gnarled walking stick and holding a pinecone, which holds the seeds of the pine tree, the symbol of William Smith College and a metaphor for the continuity of life inherent in seeds.