New York Art@Site Daniel Chester French Alma Mater

Daniel Chester French


Alma Mater

Columbia University
Alma Mater is the name given to a sculpture of the goddess Athena by Daniel Chester French on the outdoor steps leading to Low Memorial Library on the campus of Columbia University inNew York City. Installed in 1904 and donated in memory of alumnus Robert Goelet of the Class of 1860 by his wife, Harriette W. Goelet, Alma Mater has become a symbol of the university and a repository of its lore.
An owl is hidden in the folds of Alma Mater's cloak near her left leg, a symbol of knowledge and learning, and college superstition has it that the first member of the incoming class to find the owl will become class valedictorian. The legend at another time was that any Columbia student who found the owl on his first try would marry a girl from Barnard.