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Plaza opens for 250th birthday celebration

Renovations to the Daniel Chester French statue of the Marquis de Lafayette located in front of Colton Chapel and the construction of a new accompanying plaza were recently completed. The project was finished just in time for the College’s celebration of the 250th anniversary of the Marquis’ birth.

The bronze statue of the Marquis was fully refurbished. According to The Biography of a College by Albert W. Gendebien ’34:

“Whatever might be an appropriate title to describe Lafayette College during its first century, certainly by the dawn of its second it was the College of the Marquis. . . . [T]he idea of the youthful Lafayette took an increasingly stronger hold on the imagination of the college community. First of all, the desire to give the Marquis a more highly visible presence on campus by obtaining a statue of him grew until it became almost an obsession for President MacCracken. . . . In 1919, an alumnus, the artist Frederick K. Detweiler ’04, discovered a plaster model of the Marquis by Daniel Chester French. It was part of a bas-relief French has designed for the Fourth Liberty Loan Drive during World War I. . . . The sculptor agreed to round out the model of the young Revolutionary aristocrat and have it cast in bronze for the college as a full, free-standing statue. Harvey Maitland Watts 1886, Philadelphia publicist and poet, a loyal and active alumnus . . . interested Morris L. Clothier of Philadelphia in financing the preparation of the bronze casting and the installation of the statue on campus. In 1920 the College awarded Clothier the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws. In 1921 the statue was dedicated.”

The statue’s concrete base contains a famous quote from the Marquis from Dec. 16, 1777:

“I read, I study, I examine, I listen, I reflect and out of all this I try to form an idea into which I put as much common sense as I can.”

The plaza, which was constructed due to the generous support of Jere G. Oren ’50, features a new fountain, a flagstone patio, new attractive wood benches, and landscaping.

During the 250th birthday party Sept. 6, President Daniel Weiss officially invited the campus to join him by the plaza and take pictures with the Marquis, portrayed by historic interpreter Loic Barnieu.

The party was part of the College’s yearlong celebration in recognition of the life and legacy of the man for whom it is named. Other major events include a lecture series entitled Lives of Liberty and a historical exhibit, A Son and his Adoptive Father: The Marquis de Lafayette and George Washington. Oren’s gift also provides support for the exhibit.

  • A web site dedicated to the yearlong celebration and to the Marquis’ unique connection to the College provides information and updates.

The plaque for the new plaza reads:

This plaque reflects the gratitude of Lafayette College to Jere G. Oren Class of 1950 for honoring the memory of his beloved parents Samuel and Sophie Oren through his generous support of the campus celebration of the 250th birthday of the Marquis de Lafayette September 6, 2007

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