Alma Mater (New York sculpture)

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Alma Mater
Alma mater at Columbia University IMG 0917 crop.jpg
Artist Daniel Chester French
Year 1904 (1904)
Type Bronze
Dimensions 2.6 m × 1.8 m × 1.9 m (8.6 ft × 5.9 ft × 6.2 ft)
Location New York City
Coordinates Coordinates: 40°48′28.2″N 73°57′43.7″W / 40.807833°N 73.962139°W / 40.807833; -73.962139
Owner Columbia University

Alma Mater is the name given to a sculpture of the goddess Athena by Daniel Chester French on the outdoor steps leading to Low Memorial Library on the campus of Columbia University in New York City. Installed in 1904 and donated in memory of alumnus Robert Goelet of the Class of 1860 by his wife, Harriette W. Goelet,[1] Alma Mater has become a symbol of the university and a repository of its lore.

An owl is hidden in the folds of Alma Mater's cloak near her left leg,[2] a symbol of knowledge and learning,[3] and college superstition has it that the first member of the incoming class to find the owl will become class valedictorian. The legend at another time was that any Columbia student who found the owl on his first try would marry a girl from Barnard.

In the 1960s and 70s, the radical group the Weather Underground planned to blow up the statue, but these plans were shelved after the group managed to blow much of itself up inside a Greenwich Village rowhouse instead.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Richman, p. 90
  2. ^ Durante, p. 230
  3. ^ Richman, p. 90

Further reading

  • Durante, Dianne, Outdoor Monuments of Manhattan: A Historical Guide (New York University Press, 2007): discussion of the statue and the 1960s attack on it.
  • Richman, Michael, Daniel Chester French: An American Sculptor (The Preservation Press, 1976, reprinted 1983), pp. 90–96: discussion of the commission, creation and installation of the sculpture.

External links[edit]