Dr. Marilyn Hadley

Socrates and Thomas Jefferson will soon be matriculating at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. The two educators, along with several others, will be featured in the sculpture for the new College of Education building. The sculpture by Don Mitchell of Littleton, Co., is a part of the State of Nebraska’s 1% for Art Program. The program stipulates that 1% of the budget for new buildings be set aside for artwork. Mitchell will be on campus to install the Knowledge Tree on the northeast corner of the new College of Education building on May 1.

The Knowledge Tree sculpture will be 20-feet tall and made from fabricated, high strength aluminum. The bulk of the sculpture is an apple that is cut into eight sections and each section is defined by a vane. The profiles of the educators will be on the vanes. The eight profiles will be of Mary McLeod Bethune, influential in providing education opportunities for African-American girls; John Dewey, influential in the establishment of pragmatic/experiential approaches to learning and teaching; Jaime Escalante, portrayed in the movie Stand and Deliver; Friedrich Froebel, founded the kindergarten system; Thomas Jefferson, founder of free, American education; Anne Sullivan Macy, teacher of Helen Keller; Horace Mann, often called the father of public education; and Socrates, philosopher whose ideas are the basis of teaching methodology such as Socratic questions and group discussions.

“Knowledge Tree is a sculpture about ideas and some of the people who have shaped our world,” Mitchell said. “I wanted to create a friendly sculpture that conveyed great ideas, diverse thinking and that was a reminder that ideas come from inspired people. By observing or sitting beneath this sculpture, I would hope the participants would themselves be inspired.”

Mitchell has been a registered full-time artist for eleven years. His works have been displayed in the Smithsonian Institution, Moca in Los Angeles and The Whitney in New York.

A committee of UNK staff including Marilyn Hadley, dean of Education, reviewed the submissions for the project.

“The symbolism was a good fit for us because of the apple and the message of learning. Of all the submissions, we felt that Mr. Mitchell did the best of representing our work and the guidelines of the project of diversity, technology, and democracy,” Hadley said.