Alma Mater (New York sculpture)

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Alma Mater
2014 Columbia University Alma Mater closeup.jpg
Artist Daniel Chester French
Year 1903-04
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 a sculpture of the goddess Athena by Daniel Chester French which is located on the steps leading to the Low Memorial Library on the Morningside Heights campus of Columbia University in Manhattan, New York City. Using Audrey Munson as a model,[1][2] it was sculpted in 1903[3] and installed in 1904, it was donated in memory of alumnus Robert Goelet of the Class of 1860 by his wife, Harriette W. Goelet.[4] Alma Mater The statue has become a symbol of the university.

An owl, a symbol of knowledge and learning,[4] is hidden in the folds of Alma Mater's cloak near her left leg[5] 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 1962 the statue was gilded, but the gilding was removed after protests.[3] In the 1960s and 70s, the radical group the Weather Underground planned to blow up the statue, but these plans were shelved after three group members died in a Greenwich Village townhouse explosion.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Meet the most popular model in New York you've never heard of". 2016-03-07. Retrieved 2016-09-02. 
  2. ^ "Untapped Cities". 2016-04-15. Retrieved 2016-09-02. 
  3. ^ a b White, Norval; Willensky, Elliot; Leadon, Fran (2010), AIA Guide to New York City (5th ed.), New York: Oxford University Press, ISBN 9780195383867 , p.497
  4. ^ a b 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.
  5. ^ Durante, Dianne. Outdoor Monuments of Manhattan: A Historical Guide (New York University Press, 2007), p. 230

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