World Wars Monument
When the United States entered “The War to End All Wars” in 1917, many former students of Girard College enlisted in military service to join the fight abroad. To commemorate these soldiers who fought in World War I, Girard College commissioned sculptor R. Tait Mckenzie to create a war monument in 1929. The “Alma Mater and the Student” monument, which was originally designed to honor the alumni soldiers of the first World War, was gradually re-purposed into a World Wars monument to honor alumni soldiers who fought in later wars throughout the 20th century, including World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.
Backstory and Context
After the United States entered World War I in April 1917, many alumni of Girard College, as well as newly graduated and discharged students, soon signed up for military service. While roughly 300 returned from service abroad, 29 of these young soldiers lost their lives fighting in the war. About a decade after the war ended, Dr. Hobart A. Hare, Vice President of the Board of Directors of City Trusts, proposed a memorial to honor the alumni who served in the first World War. In 1929 Dr. R. Tait Mckenzie was commissioned to create what was then called the War Memorial Statue. Mckenzie was a sculptor renowned locally and abroad, who specialized in designing sculptures of young men and athletes. He was also the Physical Education Department Director at the University of Pennsylvania and had spoken at the opening of the Girard College gym (known as the Armory) in 1924.
Mckenzie designed the “Alma Mater and the Student” sculpture with the theme of “Dedication to Service” in mind. The two bronze statues depict a woman adorned in a classical Greek-styled dress, looking down steadily at the boy below with her right hand placed on his shoulder. In her left hand, she holds laurels to bestow on surviving veterans, and poppies for soldiers killed in combat. The boy kneels on one knee while gazing up at the sky, holding in his hands a sheathed sword draped in cloth. According to the sculptor, the woman symbolizes the value of “patriotism”. The young male figure and his sword represents a Girard College boy who is ready to serve his country in war. The statues are raised on two steps atop a granite pedestal. The finished 12-foot tall monument was dedicated during the Founder’s Day celebration in 1932. Hare’s daughter, Amory Hare Hutchinson, unveiled the monument in place of her late father, who had passed away the year before. The monument originally stood between Mariner and Merchant Halls, north of the High School Building.
After the end of the second World War, the WWI monument was re-dedicated as the World War Memorial Monument to memorialize the Girard College former students who had fought in WWII as well. The monument was relocated to its current location to the east of Founder’s Hall and a re-dedication ceremony was held on Founder’s Day in 1946. The original inscription on the front of the monument’s base was amended to recognize both world wars and include the dates of WWII as well as WWI. In 1974, the monument was re-dedicated again to commemorate the alumni who fought as soldiers in the Korean War between 1950-1959 (inscription engraved on the left side), and the Vietnam War between 1961-1973 (inscription engraved on the right side). For their 50th reunion, the alumni of the Class of 1943 donated a bronze plaque listing the names of 66 alumni who died in the second World War, which was mounted on the back side of the pedestal in 1993. The war monument was most recently updated on Founder’s Day in 2017, with another plaque added on the pedestal’s right side recognizing the five Girard College alumni who died in the Vietnam War. The World Wars monument, along with the Civil War monument, is decorated each year for the annual Memorial Day service.
Bunker, Gil. “War Memorial”, The American Legion. July 3, 2017. Accessed July 23th 2020. https://www.legion.org/memorials/238046/war-memorial.
Girard College. President's Reports and Catalogue of Pupils - Girard College, The City of Philadelphia, Trustee. Philadelphia, PA.
"Unveiling memorial to Girard College boys who lost their lives in the World War", Temple Digital Collections, Temple University Libraries. Accessed July 23th 2020. https://digital.library.temple.edu/digital/collection/p15037coll3/id/5116.
“World Wars Monument, (sculpture)”, Art Inventories Catalog, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Smithsonian Institution Research Information System (SIRIS). Accessed July 23th 2020. https://siris-artinventories.si.edu/ipac20/ipac.jsp?session=T357F9456147B.3449&profile=ariall&source=~!siartinventories&view=subscriptionsummary
Girard College Historical Collections