MU honors Jefferson with sculpture

Soon, students can see Thomas Jefferson every day at MU — in the form of a bronze statue, that is.

A sculpture of Jefferson was unveiled on the Francis Quadrangle on Friday afternoon. About 300 people gathered for the event.

Jefferson's contributions to the university are appreciated, said John Cook, chairman of the MU Jefferson Club.

"It is altogether fitting that we honor Thomas Jefferson as he has honored us," Cook said.

MU was the first public university west of the Mississippi River built in Jefferson's Louisiana Purchase territory.

The Board of Trustees of the MU Jefferson Club donated $45,000 to pay for the statue.

"He was a strong believer in democracy, and he had a wonderful mind," Chancellor Richard Wallace said. "It holds up scholarship and freedom, the things that are critically important to our institution."

The sculptor's creator George Lundeen said he spent nearly two years working on the piece, after five years developing different designs.

Lundeen said he has galleries throughout the western portion of the country.

A Nebraska native, Lundeen said the Jefferson Club wanted to bring his sculpture to MU.

"The Jefferson Club saw the piece in an art gallery in California, and the gallery called me and said the university was interested," Lundeen said.

There were several concepts for the sculpture, but Lundeen said he wanted to depict Jefferson in a relaxed pose.

"I tossed around different ideas of him standing," he said. "I decided I wanted him sitting."

The sculpture will be moved closer to the Chancellor's Residence next fall. The work will then be surrounded by a garden.

Also included in the unveiling was a performance by the Lewis & Clark Fife and Drum Corps. Dressed in clothes from the Jefferson era, the group performed before and after the unveiling.

The ceremony also featured plans for the MU Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Commemoration in 2004.

The expedition is a rich part of the state's history and culture, Wallace said.

An opera about the expedition, titled "Corp. of Discovery," will be the centerpiece of the celebration.

Campus committees will help coordinate the celebration, Cook said.

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