Exclusives: Raising Kate
PAW web exclusive column by Kate Swearengen '04 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
5 , 2001:
president, and preacher
addition to the university's sculpture collection is unveiled
By Kate Swearengen '04
On Saturday, November
10, the new statue of John Witherspoon was unveiled. The ceremony
was slated to begin at 4:15, but things ran late. Whether this was
out of deference to Witherspoon descendants who wanted to catch
the last minutes of the Princeton-Yale football game, or whether
the event's organizers just wanted to get their money's worth from
the bagpiper, was unclear.
I am not a Witherspoon
descendent. I am not a bagpipe aficionado, although I admit there
is a place in my heart for men in crisp kilts and tall, white socks.
I don't know anything about Alexander Stoddart, the sculptor responsible
for the work. Basically, I went to the unveiling ceremony on the
off-chance that the 10-foot, 2,750-pound sculpture would fall off
its plinth and crush some of the dignitaries there. Especially P.J.
Kim '01, the young alumni trustee. Because then I could, you know,
Of course, nothing of
the sort happened. The bagpiper ran through a couple of songs, then
disappeared to give his alveoli a rest. President Tilghman spoke
alliteratively of Witherspoon's accomplishments as "patriot,
president, and preacher." Harold Shapiro said something nice
about the University of Paisley, which he had visited over the summer.
Alex MacLennan, assistant principal at the University of Paisley,
said something nice about forging stronger ties between Scotland
and the United States. Another dignitary from the University of
Paisley said the same thing. Alexander Stoddart, blissfully unaware
that his sculpture of John Witherspoon will forever play second
fiddle to Princeton's original green monstrosity, Oval With Points,
said that he was gratified to have been chosen for the assignment.
President Tilghman, taking the microphone again, added that it was
fitting that the statue of Witherspoon would overlook the University
a man in front of me. "Too bad it's covered in scaffolding."
After concluding her
speech, President Tilghman dispensed red-handled scissors to the
dignitaries who had spoken. The five stood for a picture, grinning
uneasily, their blades poised over the tethers that, when cut, would
remove the black drape that concealed the statue.
don't cut it yet," President Tilghman warned the other four.
"This is just for the picture." They chuckled guiltily.
When the time came to
cut the tethers, a group of moppets dashed out of the crowd and
held the drape away from the base of the statue, like the train
of a wedding dress. Tilghman and company hacked at the ropes with
their scissors, and the drape fell away with a flourish, revealing
a very big, very serious, and very green John Witherspoon.
Although I'm a little
confused as to why John Witherspoon's right index finger is pointed
accusingly towards the University Chapel, I have to admit that the
sculpture is beautiful. Everyone in the crowd seemed to agree. I
think that the man standing next to me, who was particularly vocal
in his admiration, had designed the plinth. In any case, he knew
some unusual facts about the sculpture. For one thing, he disclosed
that the so-called "twin" statue of Witherspoon presented
to the University of Paisley is a full five feet taller than its
he said. "But I think a 10-foot statue is more appropriate
here." He lowered his voice conspiratorially. "You see,
we wanted to elevate the statue of John Witherspoon, to put him
where people can't touch him. That's not because of vandalism; it's
out of respect. Of course, that's not a very politically correct
thing to say these days."
Someone asked him why
he had decided to place the statue in front of East Pyne.
"I was told to
put it here," the man said, smiling forgivingly. "But
this is a nice place for it. It's on the same walkway that leads
to Clio Hall. How is that pronounced, Clee-o or Cly-o?"
He was interrupted by
a sudden eruption of bagpipe music, which signaled that the procession
to MacClean House was beginning. The enticement of refreshments
did not draw the crowd away from the sculpture, though, and the
would-be Pied Piper gave up after a few bars. He tried again some
time later, marching slowly around the statue in an attempt to gain
followers. Eventually, the crowd started to move away. I followed
the group to MacClean House, then doubled back on my bicycle. John
Witherspoon stood impassively in the dusk as two children, striving
mightily to touch his bronze foot, sprang up and down fruitlessly.
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