Did You Know?: 'The Spirit of the Land Grant College'

March 25, 2011

A section of the "The Spirit of the Land Grant College" mural, which is located on the wall above the entrance to the Humanities, Social Science and Education Library at Purdue.

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For 50 years, "The Spirit of the Land Grant College" mural has decorated the wall above the entrance to the Humanities, Social Science and Education Library at Purdue. The thought-provoking mural tells the story of education and the benefits of land-grant colleges.

The mural reads from left to right and shows the establishment of land-grant colleges during Abraham Lincoln's presidency and the impact of higher education on society. It illustrates the change in agriculture and technology since the 19th century.

According to the Purdue University Libraries Web page, the robed figure toward the left in the mural represents education, and is shown pushing back the dark curtain of ignorance and leading students through to the future.

The mural then shows Lincoln signing the act to create the land-grant colleges, opening a new era in American education. Justin S. Morrill, who sponsored the act, is shown speaking with Lincoln. In the background, graduates cross a bridge over the new technology created in medicine, agriculture and other areas.

The mural also shows research and discovery in the fields of agriculture, engineering, science, liberal arts and fine arts.

The mural was made by artist Eugene Savage (1883-1979). Savage was born in Covington, Ind., and had a distinguished career as an artist. He won the Prix de Rome, a prestigious art scholarship, and became a professor of painting at Yale University.

At the time the Stewart Center mural was commissioned, Savage was retired from academic life but still an ambitious artist. Purdue University Galleries also has a small painting by Savage in its permanent collection that depicts an idyllic scene of fauns in a clearing.

"The Spirit of the Land Grant College" was a gift to the University from Mr. and Mrs. Walter Scholer and Mr. and Mrs. Robert Bruce Stewart. The mural was dedicated on Purdue's campus in 1961. Walter Scholer was a local architect who planned many of Purdue's buildings, and R.B. Stewart was a longtime treasurer at Purdue during years of campus expansion.

More on the mural is available at www.lib.purdue.edu/hsse/infopages/news/spiritlandgrant.html.

Source: Patrick Whalen, Purdue University Libraries