Did You Know?: Busts in the Union

April 3, 2014  

PMU busts

In Purdue Memorial Union sit bronze busts of all of Purdue's 11 past presidents as well as David Ross, former trustee and Purdue benefactor, and U.S. President Abraham Lincoln. Here, from left to right, busts of presidents Emerson White, James Smart and Winthrop Stone are shown. White was president from 1876-83, Smart was president from 1883-1900 and Stone was president from 1900-1921. (Purdue University photos/Steven Yang) 
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The bronze bust sculptures that sit in Purdue Memorial Union have a history that's nearly as storied as the people they depict.

In all, the sculptures represent Purdue's 11 past presidents as well as David Ross -- the former trustee known, in part, for his status as benefactor of Ross-Ade Stadium -- and Abraham Lincoln, the 16th U.S. president. Lincoln signed the Morrill Land-Grant Act, which allowed for the creation of Purdue and many other universities across the nation.

The busts' creation spanned several decades.

The bust that depicts Lincoln is the oldest in the Union, according to archived Board of Trustees minutes. It was a gift to Purdue from the Class of 1904 upon its 25th anniversary. The class presented the bust to President Edward Elliott in 1929, when, the minutes say, it was placed on a pedestal in the Great Hall.

In 1946, the University purchased busts of Ross and Elliott, who was president at the time. According to archived Board of Trustees minutes, Purdue bought the busts from their sculptor, Indiana artist Jon Magnus Jonson, who lived from 1893 to 1947.

In 1983, Evansville sculptor Don Ingle created a bust of Frederick Hovde, who was president from 1946 to 1971, and the University acquired it.

The collection remained limited until the 1990s, when the Purdue Research Foundation commissioned busts of the University's remaining former presidents to date -- Richard Owen, Abraham Shortridge, Emerson White, James Smart, Winthrop Stone, Arthur Hansen and Steven Beering. A bust of Martin Jischke, who was president from 2000 to 2007, was added after he took office.

Ingle created all the busts and completed them during a period of several years. As they were completed, the busts were positioned in nearly chronological order in the Great Hall, says Bob Mindrum, the Union's director. The Lincoln and Ross busts have sat in the west lobby, near the International Flag Display.

In 2012, the University unveiled a bust of France A. Córdova, Purdue's 11th president. The bust took its place alongside Córdova's predecessors and was the work of Cincinnati artist John Hebenstreit, in conjunction with Sincerus Bronze Art in Indianapolis. Córdova was president from 2007 to 2012.

Displaying bronze busts of Purdue's former presidents in the Great Hall adds to the hall's memorial history and purpose, Mindrum says.

"I think it's fitting that these busts are on view in a place that is revered as a memorial to the Purdue faithful who gave their lives in military service to our country," Mindrum says.

"Those brave men and women have inspired us all to maintain the Union in a manner that honors their memory, and so do these presidential busts remind us of the inspired leadership that has made Purdue University a great institution."

Writer: Amanda Hamon Kunz, 49-61325, ahamon@purdue.edu

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