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Statue a symbol of namesake’s ‘energy’

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Pere Jacques Marquette now stands in front of St. Joan of Arc Chapel, looking over the Marquette campus.

Not the real Marquette, but a bronze sculpture of the 17th-century Jesuit explorer after whom the university is named. The sculpture was installed in front of the chapel Tuesday and will be dedicated Friday as part of a celebration for the conclusion of the seven-year Magis fundraising campaign.

Early in the campaign, John Madden, a 1956 alumnus of the College of Business Administration and member of the board of trustees, and his wife Mary offered to fund a sculpture of Marquette, according to Toby Peters, associate vice president in the Office of Administration.

Images of Marquette, Peters said, had previously adorned the walls of the Brooks Memorial Union, but have been in storage since that building was razed to make way for the John P. Raynor, S.J. Library.

A search then began for an artist to create the commissioned sculpture. Among the artists recommended to Curtis Carter, director of the Haggerty Museum of Art, was New York-based Ron Knepper.

"He seemed to be a person who could create a genuine work of art rather than a statue," Carter said of Knepper.

Knepper did some research on Pere Marquette and put together a maquette, or miniature sample sculpture, Knepper said. He said he found the character of Marquette appealing.

"He was a keen observer, compassionate, charismatic. He respected cultures. His main goal in life was to explore the world," Knepper said.

His design was chosen for the Marquette sculpture. However, Knepper was asked by the committee to revise certain portions of the design.

"We wanted him to be more upright and convey images of strength, confidence and compassion," Peters said.

According to the April 27, 2004 edition of The Marquette Tribune, students shown a picture of the maquette thought Marquette was squatting. Even a Jesuit, the Rev. John Laurance, chair of the theology department, thought the original sculpture was "undignified."

Knepper took those criticisms and went to work. He changed Marquette's pose so it was more upright. He also replaced a peace pipe with a map, and adjusted the right arm and knee.

The result was unveiled Tuesday. Peters said the placement of the sculpture wasn't difficult to choose.

"There's a natural association with the history of the chapel," Peters said. "We want it to be seen from a distance. Our hope is that the sculpture is there for a century or more."

Carter said the sculpture is what he wanted.

"It has energy and movement, rather than being a static figure. It symbolizes the energy of Marquette."

Laurance said the new sculpture is better than the maquette.

"I really like it. It captures his intelligence, intensity and courage. He certainly has human dignity."

Students' reactions, however, were mixed.

"It's pretty nice. You can't go wrong with a nice statue," said Dan Koza, a freshman in the College of Arts & Sciences.

"It's a good idea, but he kind of looks like Captain Morgan (the alcoholic beverage cartoon)," said Adam Covach, a sophomore in the College of Health Sciences.

This article was published in The Marquette Tribune on September 22, 2005.

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