As an Emory & Henry College student in the early 1960s, Gene Bane sensed that, in spite of the immense beauty of the campus, the grounds of his college lacked symbols that would embody the students’ pride in their institution.
For many years, Bane, a 1963 E&H graduate, has been a long-time admirer of Patrick Henry, one of the College’s namesakes and patriot of the American Revolution. Bane’s passionate interest in Virginia’s first post-Colonial governor led him to provide financial support for the creation of a statue representing Henry.
Understanding the importance of having both of the College’s namesakes represented in this fashion, Emory & Henry commissioned a companion statue of Methodist Bishop John Emory.
The two statues, which are the work of sculptor Jon Hair of Cornelius, N.C., were unveiled Thursday, March 22, in a ceremony where they now stand, in front of Kelly Library.
“I felt (as a student) there was something missing on campus,” Bane said, “a little lack of pride in the institution and its founders.”
Speaking of Patrick Henry, Bane reflected on a man who through his famous words, “Give me liberty or give me death,” believed in the importance of action in the exercise of civic virtue. “I want you to think that he’s looking at us today saying, ‘You have given me honor and praise, and I will never die.’”
Hair, one of the most highly commissioned monument sculptors in the country, said he relished the opportunity to portray Emory and Henry, two men who represent action. He recalled that in seeking the opportunity to create the sculptures he jokingly implored the selection committee to “give me this commission or give me death.”
E&H student Kelli Landreth of Bluefield said the presence of the statues not only increases student pride in the institution, but it helps them want to increase their excellence throughout life. “We now have two companions to watch over our journey,” she said. “And I am proud that our College is truly honoring its history.”
Charles Goolsby, the head of the E&H Art Department, praised the work for both its concept and craftsmanship. The statues “add even more beauty to an already beautiful campus,” Goolsby said.