A Lasting Tribute at Saint Leo University
November 01, 2010
Saint Leo University’s deep commitment to providing educational opportunities to military service members has found expression through an extraordinary piece of public artwork permanently installed at University Campus.
“For Those Who Serve,” has taken its rightful place in Dempsey Plaza, in the heart the Student Community Center Complex. The elaborate bronze work honors the men and women of the armed forces and celebrates the gift of knowledge that Saint Leo University has been privileged to share with service members for more than three decades. The sculpture was made possible by a group of generous individuals who each identified a particular branch of the service portrayed in the sculpture to highlight. The donors’ gifts are a special way of honoring people close to them.
- Hjalma and Laura Johnson are honoring the memory of Chester W. Taylor, Jr., founding dean of Military Education at Saint Leo, and the U.S. Army.
- Constance Schifflin Blum pays tribute to the memory of Charles George Schifflin, Jr., USN, and the U.S. Navy.
- Richard `68 and Karen Johnson and the Margery C. Hunt Charitable Fund provided a gift in memory of Dennis E. Vacenovsky `67 USMC, and the U.S. Marine Corps.
- Virginia M. “Ginger” Judge donated in memory of Dan Gordon Judge, Jr., USAF, and Timothy James Judge `77, and the U.S. Air Force.
- Donor James Willis Walter chose to honor his wife, Connie Marie Walter, and to recognize the Saint Leo University faculty by making a gift that pays tribute to those who serve and teach military students. The Walter gift also honors the U. S. Coast Guard.
This complex sculpture was two years in the making.
Its inspiration came about as university administrators discussed how best to commemorate Saint Leo’s longstanding service to the military. University President Arthur F. Kirk, Jr., wanted a prominent work for Dempsey Plaza, a focal point for the community. “I thought about a sculpture in the plaza as a place of honor for all of our military students and graduates,” Dr. Kirk explains. “I also saw it serving as a daily reminder to all of us of their service, and them being one with us.”
Dexter Benedict, a noted sculptor and art professor, conceived the tableau that conveys the concepts of patriotism, honor, respect, and wisdom. “This is probably the most involved sculpture I’ve done,” Benedict relates.
To represent the armed services, he created modern, life-size figures dressed in the work uniforms of the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard. To do justice to the racial and ethnic diversity of the armed forces, Benedict says he sculpted the figures “in an impressionistic way,” blurring distinctions in facial features. Two figures are female, the service members from the Air Force and the Coast Guard, in recognition of the fact that both women and men serve in the military. The figures form a circle, working together to hold high above their heads a modern depiction of Lady Liberty.
Benedict reflected on the duty our service members accept as he created the work. “When you talk about people who lay their lives on the line for our defense, that’s heroic. That’s been on my mind. That, along with trying to give nobility to the ‘every person’ in the military,” he says.
Saint Leo University’s role in the relationship is depicted by a faculty member seated with a book, scrolls, and computer disc in his lap to symbolize instruments of learning. The faculty member presents as Renaissance figure in academic regalia.
“I like to think there’s a kind of spiritual quality to the work, not in a formal religious sense,” Benedict says, “but in the sense that the human spirit comes through the work.”
“I hope,” Dr. Kirk says, “that the statue becomes a destination piece that attracts visitors just because it is here. I hope that students, faculty, staff, and visitors have the same reaction I had when I saw it: compelling and inspirational. I hope people appreciate how Saint Leo has had so many dedicated faculty and staff who committed themselves to serve those who serve us, so many students and graduates who have served or are now serving in the military. Saint Leo is so much more and greater in mission, spirit, and service than we are just on this campus.”
For Those Who Serve
A Military Sculpture Dedication
For Those Who Serve is a sculpture commemorating the ongoing commitment of the university to the education of our nation's armed forces. The dedication will be held on Veterans Day, Thursday, November 11 at 7:00 p.m. in Dempsey Plaza on the university campus.