Since 1997, Abraham Lincoln has stood larger than life on the Carthage campus, elegantly greeting students, faculty, staff, and visitors from Sesquicentennial Plaza. Around Mr. Lincoln are etched the names of hundreds of Carthaginians. And seated nearby? John Hay, distinguished alumnus and former U.S. Secretary of State.
The bronze sculpture is a landmark on the Carthage campus, celebrating the connection Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Hay have to Carthage, and illustrating the passage of wisdom from one generation to the next. Through the first year of his presidency, Mr. Lincoln served as a trustee at Illinois State University, which later became Carthage. Mr. Hay attended Illinois State and later served as Mr. Lincoln’s personal secretary.
Titled “A Learning Moment,” the sculpture depicts the elder statesman recounting a story to his protégé.
For sculptor Michael Martino, the scene is analogous to the learning moments that happen every day at Carthage. Knowing Mr. Lincoln’s penchant for storytelling, Mr. Martino imagined a moment when Mr. Lincoln paused during dictation to impart some lighthearted wisdom to Mr. Hay.
As a college whose faculty are dedicated primarily to teaching, rather than publishing research, Carthage offers many similar moments when professors interrupt a lesson to draw from personal experience.
“That’s the difference between somebody who’s just conveying information and somebody who’s been really inspired,” Mr. Martino said. “And it takes a wise teacher to make that leap.”
About Sesquicentenntial Plaza
“A Learning Moment” was dedicated in 1997 as part of the College’s sesquicentennial celebration. The late Donna Wolf Steigerwaldt, a former Carthage Board of Trustees chair, donated $250,000 for the artwork and surrounding plaza.
Made of hollow bronze, the Lincoln statue stands 9 1/2 feet tall. True to Mr. Martino’s vision, in warmer months classes often convene in Sesquicentennial Plaza. The names of alumni, donors, and friends are etched in commemorative bricks leading up to the plaza, honoring those whose vision and generosity have nurtured the Carthage spirit.
About the Artist
As his first major commission, the sculpture smoothed Mr. Martino’s transition to full-time artist. He previously had worked as a sign painter while pursuing his art on the side.
As an artist, he finds depth of feeling in Honest Abe’s facial features. The sculptor also installed a 24-inch-tall bust of Mr. Lincoln at the Civil War Museum in Kenosha. In contrast to the Carthage work, that face reveals a leader wearied by war but resolute nonetheless.
Though he has sculpted many other subjects, he remembers what he learned while researching Mr. Lincoln. Mr. Martino grew to admire the way the president meshed fierce determination and political skills to achieve results. “He kept to his principles and saw them through.”