Alma Mater: Memory

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Enrico Licari, Alma Mater, 1928, bronze, 5′ 8 1/2″ x 2′ 2″ x 2′ 2″

Enrico Licari, Alma Mater, 1928, bronze, 5′ 8 1/2″ x 2′ 2″ x 2′ 2″

The Alma Mater sculpted by DU faculty member Enrico Licari (b. 1894) in 1928 may be DU’s most recognizable memorial. The group combines two symbolic, or allegorical portrait of DU benefactor Mary Dean Reed (1875-1945) and her daughter Margery Reed Mayo (1894-1925; BA, 1919) with the allegorical representation of Alma Mater overseeing a student. In American universities, the Alma Mater (“nourishing mother”) has come to represent a special relationship between the institution and the student body. Here, both communities are represented in bronze as mother and daughter.

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Enrico Licari, Alma Mater, 1928, Bronze, 5 ft. 8 1/2 in. x 2 ft. 2 in. x 2 ft. 2 in

Location: Green North of Harper Humanities Garden

  • Today’s theme of remembrance and the link between the past, present, and future is clearly manifested in this sculpture titled Alma Mater done by Enrico Licari, another DU faculty member.
  • Gift of the university community in memory of Margery Reed Mayo and the benefactions of Mary Reed. Dedicated in 1929, the same year that Licari joined the DU faculty.
  • The Reeds had three children: Joseph, Verner Jr. and Margery, for whom DU’s Margery Reed Hall is named. Margery, their first child, graduated from DU and became an assistant professor in the English department, where she met her husband, Paul Mayo, also a DU alumnus. Margery died in May 1925 of a disease likely contracted in Peru; she was 30. She was a poet and a playwright.
  • By late fall of the following year, the University announced a $100,000 gift from Mary Reed to fund the Margery Reed Mayo Memorial Hall. (The name was later changed, at Mary Reed’s request, because students had been casually referring to the building as Memorial Hall.) When it became clear that this gift was not large enough to fund the kind of building Reed and others on campus imagined, she quietly gave another $100,000, as documented in a telegram from New York dated June 2, 1927.
  • It is meant to be an idealized portrait of Mary and Margery Reed. Alma mater literally means nourishing mother and can refer to the role of the university as a parental figure in the lives of students.
  • “To thy happy children of the future, those of the past send greetings.” – Alma Mater sculpture at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • This sculpture is based on the archetype established by Daniel Chester French, who is famously known for his Alma Mater sculpture at Columbia (along with the sculpture in the Lincoln Memorial). In this vein, the sculpture was originally placed on the steps of Margery Reed Mayo Hall and presided over commencement ceremonies. Summer commencement is still held in the area in the front of the hall referred to as Commencement Green.
  • At commencement, the statue can represent the welcoming arms of the alumni as graduates join their ranks. It is the legacy from generation to generation within the university community.
  • The figure group has been moved twice, and was relocated to its current site in the Humanities Garden in June 1992. The hope is that eventually the sculpture will be moved back to its original position and once again serve a central role in commencement ceremonies, reestablishing the campus’ connection to the past.
  • From here you can see the top of Margery Reed Hall, where a 600 square foot mural by John Edward Thompson in the Little Theater is currently being restored. Due to time constraints, we cannot go inside today, but DU Art has sponsored events in the past such as a panel discussion for members addressing the mural project.