Something to identify with

The journey to find a proper Memorial Fountain

Aundrea Horsley, Reporter

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According to the 24-page-long November 18, 1970 special edition of The Parthenon, four days after the plane crash that took the lives of 75 members of the Marshall University community, a committee formed to plan a memorial that would stand in the honor of those who were lost on November 14, 1970.

The memorial fountain on the Memorial Student Center plaza, designed by Italian sculptor Harry Bertoia, is one of the many outcomes of that committee formed 44 years ago.

November 12, 1972, Marshall President John Barker dedicated the $25,000, 6,500 pound, 13-foot-high sculpture as “a lasting memorial to those who died… a complete recognition of the tragedy” to a crowd of more than 1,000 people.

The decision was not an easy one, as it took the committee two years to complete the planning for the Memorial Fountain. The 1970 art department was in charge of submitting possible designs for the memorial.

According to a 1971 issue of The Parthenon, one design was submitted by John E. Jenkins, a Huntington interior designer, of a herd of buffalo on a cloud.

“I’d like to see something that in 20 years, people will be able to identify with,” Jenkins said about his submission. “That was just my idea. To me, that tells the story.”

According to the 1971 edition of The Parthenon, there was much debate over if the memorial should be abstract or commercial. There was also criticism about the amount of time it took to complete the major memorial, even though there were other memorials developing and standing in honor of the 1970 tragedy as well.

Joseph McMullen, athletic director in 1971, said memorials were reflected all across campus.

“November 14 will always be a heritage of Marshall,” McMullen said. “It isn’t necessary to say anything but the date-everyone knows.”

The 1971 Parthenon said “not only is the date permanently implanted in many minds, but there are also many reminders in the form of memorials throughout the campus. Some may just reflect names, others are simple plaques or they may be more elaborate structures like the proposed plaza for the front of the new Memorial Student Center. The center’s name itself is a memorial.”

McMullen said he felt that any appropriate memorial for the student center plaza should reflect both Marshall and athletics.

The memorial was left up to Harry Bertoia to design. His design consisted of 150 copper tubes that “swept toward the sky” and created a fountain.

According to the 1972 Parthenon, Bertoia was asked if he thought students would understand the meaning of his sculpture while at the dedication ceremony.

“Students are like other individuals. If they like the sound of the moving water and understand the impression of life constantly continuing, then that is good,” Bertoia said. “My hope is that the fountain commemorates the living – rather than death – on the waters of life, rising, receding, surging so as to express upward growth, immortality and eternality.”

The fountain is silenced each year while the Marshall community surrounds it during the traditional memorial ceremony until spring.

Aundrea Horsley can be contacted at [email protected]

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