February 4, 2016  

Did You Know?: PMU stained glass window

PMU stained glass

(Purdue University photo/Mark Simons)
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Purdue Memorial Union is home to many Purdue traditions and memorials, including a stained glass window, located at the southwest entrance, dedicated to a past Purdue president.

The stained glass window is dedicated to the memory of James H. Smart, president of Purdue from 1883 to 1900. It was donated in 1940 by Alice Earl Stuart, wife of Charles B. Stuart, who was Board of Trustees president during Smart's tenure.

At the top of the window are the words "Our poor spirit is so weak that it is only through the use of materials that it can rise to the truth," taken from the words of Abbé Suger, a 12th-century churchman and builder.

Four separate panels depict four figures: Mother Earth, Sister Water, Brother Fire and Brother Wind. Within each panel are representations of students holding various items that portray disciplines offered by Purdue, including a train, a bridge, a tractor and a tulip.

The colors of the stained glass are symbolic. Red stands for courage of passionate devotion and self-sacrifice; blue is for enduring loyalty, eternity, wisdom and thoughtfulness; gold is the color of treasures in heaven of the good life; green represents hope, springtime, youth and victory; white stands for faith, serenity, peace and purity; and violet stands for justice, royalty and mystery. The window as a whole stands for the love and wisdom that characterized Smart's presidency.

Source: "A University of Tradition: The Spirit of Purdue;" historical documents provided by Purdue Memorial Union.

Writer: Aspen Deno, denoa@purdue.edu 

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