For Immediate Release – May 9, 2005

Contact:

Mary E. McCrank

Media Relations Officer

(585) 245-5516

mccrank@geneseo.edu

SUNY GENESEO READIES FOR MINERVA’S RETURN HOME

GENESEO, N.Y. – A Roman goddess missing for more than a half-century will soon receive a homecoming of sorts at the State University of New York at Geneseo.

A Massachusetts gallery is putting the finishing touches on a replica that is the mirror image of the Minerva statue that stood guard over Geneseo students for decades as they acquired wisdom. She is expected home within a month.

The Minerva statue was last seen in 1951, when she graced the library in the Old Main building when Geneseo was a normal, or teacher training, school. It was widely speculated that Minerva – who would have turned 99 this year – was razed, along with Old Main and was perhaps even used as rubble to fill a parking lot.

This winter, Milne Library officials launched a campaign to find the statue, even going as far as plastering wanted posters – some asking, "Have you seen this goddess?" – around campus and in the village in hopes that faculty and staff, nearby residents or alumni may have some clue as to where Minerva is hiding.

Ed Rivenburgh, director of libraries, and Liz Argentieri, special collections librarian, became the lead detectives in the case, following up on several leads that came in as a result of a publicity blitz.

A Geneseo emeritus professor e-mailed, saying he recalled the name of the contractor who razed Old Main. When officials reached the contractor, who still lives in the area, he told them he recalls moving the statue from the library to the gymnasium, also in Old Main. But from there, he said, others decided its fate.

Another lead came from the Leroy Historical Society, which contacted the library to offer a replacement Minerva. This statue was tucked away behind a chimney in the gift shop of the society’s Jell-O Museum, a bit chipped and scratched but still in pretty good shape considering her history. The society’s statue had stood in the Leroy High School library from the early 1900s until the 1920s. It had been moved into storage at the historical society in the 1950s and because no one wanted her, the society decided to put her up for adoption. After serious consideration, Milne officials decided the cost to restore the statue would have been greater than buying a reproduction.

After reaching dead ends, Rivenburgh and Argentieri concluded that Minerva’s widely reported demise was by all accounts more than just a rumor. So, they became sleuths of another kind, this time searching the Internet to find someone who could create a replica of the goddess of wisdom and patron of warriors.

Milne officials sent photos of the college’s old Minerva statue to the Giust Gallery in Woburn, Mass., which specializes in making replicas of classical sculpture from major European museums. The old statue weighed 350 pounds and stood 6’2". The new statue is 8’3" and will weigh in between 80 to 120 pounds. The gallery used resin, not plaster, because it is more durable for the high-traffic lobby of the library, where Minerva will be on display when she returns home.

Aside from the height difference, college officials are certain the new statue will look like the old one. After all, the gallery’s mold might just be the same mold from which the old statue was born.

"It’s an exact match," said Argentieri. "Maybe they’re closely related. Maybe our statue came from the same batch that they have."

Minerva is expected to arrive home in mid- to late-May. A dedication ceremony is set for 3:30 p.m. Friday, June 10, at Milne Library. The event is free and open to the public.

College historians say all of the state’s normal schools were given statues of Minerva, and Geneseo received its statue in 1906. The statue stood in the entrance of Old Main until 1921, but it was later moved to the ground floor of the library because of her weight.

Minerva is the Roman counterpart of the Greek goddess Athena. Minerva sprang from the head of Jupiter – her father who was king of the gods – fully grown and in full armor. She was the patron of warriors, defender of home and state, and the embodiment of wisdom, purity and reason. She also was the patron of the arts, handicrafts and trades.

"The Stone Strength of the Past," SUNY Geneseo’s history published in 1971, made note of the statue. It reads: "Minerva was seldom noticed by the students. Minerva was the center of attention at one time, though, when her plain features were brightened by an application of lipstick and rouge."

"Usually Minerva passively and somewhat contemptuously observed lesser mortals pursue learning," the book continued.

The senior class is donating the cost to bring Minerva home through its senior challenge fund-raising program. A plaque will be placed on the base of the statue in honor of the class of 2005’s generosity.

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