New MLK Memorial replica finds a home in Ellis Library
The statue was a gift from MU alumnus Ty Christian.
Jan. 31, 2013
Ty Christian grew up in St. Louis and attended Christian Brothers College High School. Across town, Wally Pfeffer studied at De Smet Jesuit High School.
Today, Christian, chief marketing strategist on the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation, and Pfeffer, Chair of the Mizzou Legislative Network Committee, are great friends.
The two come from drastically different backgrounds, but they are living proof that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s message is still alive, Christian said at the start of his speech Tuesday at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the installation of a Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Replica statue in Ellis Library.
"The wonders of Dr. King are truly working today," Christian said. "Imagine being a poor young black boy growing up in St. Louis, Missouri, and off the track, there was a rich white kid growing up, who happened to go to De Smet, and I went to CBC. Wally Pfeffer has been a dear friend for a number of years and this goes to show you that Dr. King's words are truly working today — that we can come from such vast backgrounds and can work together."
Christian presented a miniature statue, a replica of the MLK memorial monument in Washington, D.C., to MU at an event Tuesday honoring Martin Luther King Jr. The event was hoste by the MU Libraries and Chancellor's Diversity Initiative. Despite the rain, various members of the Columbia community, students and MU faculty members were in attendance.
"His legacy has changed our world over the past 50 years and that's what we've seen with these past two generations, positive rewards." – Thomas A. Trabue, Principal of THHinc Consulting Engineers, Volunteer for the Columbia Chamber of Commerce
Christian, an MU alum, received the replica for his work with the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation.
Under his tenure, the foundation raised $115 million to build the memorial. In 2004, Christian received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the Mizzou Alumni Association.
Christian said the issues that Dr. King fought for are still pertinent today and the statue can serve as a reminder for students of Dr. King's message.
"I hope when people see that statue, that they think about the opportunity to work together," Christian said. "At the end of the day it's about teamwork. As simple as that sounds, we're much better working together than working against each other."
While placing the statue in the library may seem strange at first, the choice as the statue's new home has meaning, Pfeffer said.
"Many leaders at MU live by the words of Dr. King and lead by example. I think it's quite wonderful to have a unique closeness to the newest national monument... For me, Dr. King's legacy is his quest for tolerance, acceptance and peace in a multicultural society." – Ana Compain-Romero, Director of University Affairs
"(The library) is a place where people come looking for answers," Pfeffer said. "Dr. King raised questions that we've been dealing with for centuries and he guided people with his non-violent approach to find answers. We haven't answered all those questions yet, and Dr. King reminds us that we need to pursue those answers."
Placing the statue in the library also reflects Dr. King's ideas of diversity and inclusion, Christain said.
"If you'd have put it at the Black Culture Center, it would have been a rightful place, but the whole thing with Dr. King and what I represent is more about diversity," Christian said. "When we were working on the memorial, it wasn't a memorial to a black man, it just happened to be the first memorial on the national mall that honored a person of color. It was honoring one of America's greatest patriots. So having it here at the library, more and more people are going to have a chance to see it. I can't think of a better place."
After Christian received the replica for his services to the memorial project, the decision to give it MU was an easy one, Christian said.
"To me, it's about breaking barrier and traditions, and that change can happen if something is worthwhile. The monument will not be static but a source of news for rights movements and a reminder of how things were. " – Sophomore Jeremy Herrin, Pre-Med
"It wouldn't have made sense to have it sitting around my house," Christian said. "I thought it was much bigger to share and be unselfish about it. Without the University of Missouri, I would've never been able to work on the project. They both gave me the educational foundation and the ability to be able to dream and to have the courage to continue to get up when you get knocked down and to continue to do your best."
After the ribbon cutting, the library hosted a reception with displays of photos of Dr. King and the memorial in Washington D.C., as well as books about Dr. King the library has in its catalogue. Pat Jones, safety and security coordinator in Ellis Library, displayed artwork and responses to Dr. King's teachings by fifth-grade students of Blue Ridge Elementary School.
Chancellor Brady Deaton and Chief Diversity officer Noor Azizan-Gardner also spoke at the reception.
"His legacy, not just as a single person, but what he stood for, is important for us to carry on. His legacy is the belief in equality for all people, all generations. I think his legacy is a very forward one that applies very much today...I think Mizzou does an amazing job infiltrating the culture with the ideals of equality, acceptance and respect. I think we've gotten past the point of tolerance and moved on to mutual respect for our fellow Tigers." – Charlie Parker, Chancellors Diversity Initiative Coordinator of Diversity Programs
"It's not intended merely as a static display honoring a single individual," Deaton said. "Instead, we intend to use this space to showcase area events and programs related to human rights and the principals Dr. King stood for."
The connection of the MLK memorial to an MU grad makes the statue especially meaningful, Information Services Librarian Darell Schmick said.
"The fact that one of the fabricators of the moment is a Mizzou grad speaks to all of us," Schmick said.
Since Dr. King's teachings and MU have done so much for Christian, he said he hopes the statue can inspire people in its new home at Ellis.
"With the placing of this replica at the university my goals and desires are very simple," Christian said. "This piece of art represents the fact that the University of Missouri offers anyone and everyone the opportunity to dream; to dream not in black and white, but to dream in rainbow colors, and to dream big."