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‘Old Abe’ a Beloved Symbol
Landmark statue has been on campus since 1926.
Bryce Stenzel, Mankato Free Press, 4-14-2013
The statue of Abraham Lincoln, which stands in Centennial Student Union at Minnesota State University, has a longtime association with the school. The landmark has been on campus since 1926, according to MSU’s archives.
The plaster sculpture, which has no marks to identify its origin or creator, is a gift from alumni — a memorial of the graduates’ academic experiences.
During its first years in Mankato, the full- size likeness of our 16th president stood in the town’s “normal” school — Mankato State Teachers College, located on South Fifth Street downtown. The statue was placed in the main hall of the administration building, or Old Main. That building still stands today as Old Main Village, a senior retirement living community.
Earlier in the college’s history, it had been customary for the graduates of a particular class to pool their financial resources and purchase pieces of art, which were then displayed on campus. These memorials included clocks, pictures and even stained- glass windows for the college chapel.
On Feb. 5, 1922, these memorials were destroyed in a devastating fire at the college.
Dr. Hiram J. Lloyd, who was a diagnostician at the Mankato Clinic and an active member of the class of 1900, organized the effort to replace the memorials from previous classes. From the money that was raised in this campaign, the statue of Lincoln was purchased, along with busts of Mozart and Shakespeare and several paintings for display in college halls.
“Meet me at Abe Lincoln” was a common phrase heard on campus, according to a 1944 edition of The College Reporter.
The sculpture and other alumni memorials were relocated in 1967- 68 when the Centennial Student Union was built on the upper campus. Their move was part of a commemoration of the founding of the college a century before.
The Lincoln statue has been moved several times. It stood for a time on the second floor of the first library building on campus. In 1978, it was moved to the Centennial Student Union building, according to MSU archives. Since then, “Old Abe” has been displayed at various sites around the student union.
I recall fond memories of passing by it when I was a boy, on my way to see a film being shown in the main auditorium ( Ostrander) with my parents. I used to look up at Lincoln’s craggy face and wonder what he was thinking about.
During my college days, the statue was in an alcove on the side of the building that adjoins the Wigley Administration Center. The “Lincoln Lounge” was originally the front entrance to the CSU. Today, the lounge and the statue are on the side of the building that faces the mall and Memorial Library.
Over the years, the statue has endured being “dressed up” by pranksters and the victim of vandalism. A large chunk of material is missing from the bottom corner of Lincoln’s frock coat.
According to a story in the Oct. 15, 1953, The College Reporter, an acoustic ceiling was being put up in Old Main Hall and “a worker must have been a little disgusted and took it out on Old Abe for after the job was done the statue was missing a piece of material from his coat.”
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