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woolsey.jpg

Theodore Dwight Woolsey, 1896
John Ferguson Weir (1841-1926; M.A.H. 1871)
Location: Old Campus

During his long tenure as president of Yale from 1846 to 1871, Theodore Dwight Woolsey (1801-1889; B.A. 1820, M.A. 1823) oversaw the creation of the Yale School of the Fine Arts and hired John Ferguson Weir as its first director in 1869. On its low pedestal in the middle of Old Campus, Weir’s massive bronze statue of Woolsey has a forceful presence, serving as both a memorial and a symbol of learning and wisdom. The sculptor emphasized Woolsey’s academic career as a former professor of Greek by seating him on a Greek Revival klismos chair wearing heavy classicized robes; the Greek inscription on the back of the chair reads “the most excellent, the most wise, the most just.” The enormous head conveys the “scholarly features and piercing eye” that Weir recalled vividly from their first meeting, and generations of students have rubbed the protruding foot for good luck. The art professor created the statue as a gift from alumni, and today it illustrates the joint roles of Weir and Woolsey as founders of Yale’s rich artistic tradition. Anonymous alumni gift, 1896