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Dead White Guys: Butler Edition

Bwog’s resident Portraiture Enthusiast Mahima Chablani returns with a second edition of Dead White Guys. This time, she’s here to provide the captions for the paintings  surrounding the main stairs in Butler—no one is physically tall enough to come close to reading them. Next time you walk in, stop moaning about bed bugs and Redbull and give your eyes some visual stimuli.

Nicholas Murray Butler (surprise!) (1862-1947) by Augustus Vincent Tack in 1944: Butler served as twelfth president of Columbia from 1902-1945 (yes, that’s 43 years!). On the scale of Columbia overachiever-ness, Butler has outdone us all: from the years 1882 to 1887, Butler earned his B.A., M.A., and Ph.D.; joined the Philosophy department; and co-founded the New York College for the Training of Teachers (now Teachers College). And his snazzy abilities didn’t just stop there. In the years 1920 and 1928, Butler ran for office with the campaign slogan “Pick Nick for a Picnic in November.” Many students regarded Butler as arrogant and controversial, like the ballsy Alan Ginsberg, who wrote “Butler has No Balls” on the window of his dorm in Hartley.

The Right Honourable George Grenville (1712-1770) by Sir Joshua Reynolds: Grenville was Prime Minister of Great Britain from 1763-1765. He is best known for legislating the Sugar Act and the Stamp Act to help the nation recover financially from the Seven Years War.

Dwight David Eisenhower (1890-1969) by Elie-Cristo Loveanu: Prior to becoming the thirty-fourth President of the United States, Eisenhower followed Butler as thirteenth president of Columbia from 1948-1953. During his tenure, however, he was mostly absent, as he was simultaneously campaigning for office and serving as Supreme Commander of NATO forces in Europe. Although he was rarely seen around Morningside Heights, he often attended football games at Baker Field and was instrumental in transforming a busy strip of 116th street into College Walk.

King George VI and Queen Elizabeth of England by Griffith Baily Coale: This mural depicts the couple’s efficient thirty-minute visit to Columbia on June 10, 1939. Butler brought the two into Low Library, showed them the royal charter issued by King George II in 1754, and had them sign the University guest book.

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  • even says:

    @even Better than Ginsberg’s insult of Butler is a poem published in Poetry magazine, and written by Butler’s former student Rolfe Humphries.


    Niobe’s daughters yearn to the womb again,
    Ionians bright and fair, to the chill stone;
    Chaos in cry, Actaeon’s angry pack,
    Hounds of Molussus, shaggy wolves driven

    Over Ampsanctus’ vale and Pentheus’ glade,
    Laelaps and Ladon, Dromas, Canace,–
    As these in fury harry brake and hill
    So the great dogs of evil bay the world.

    Memory, Mother of Muses, be resigned
    Until King Saturn comes to rule again!
    Remember now no more the golden day
    Remember now no more the fading gold,
    Astraea fled, Proserpina in hell;
    You searchers of the earth be reconciled!

    Because, through all the blight of human woe,
    Under Robigo’s rust, and Clotho’s shears,
    The mind of man still keeps its argosies,
    Lacedaemonian Helen wakes her tower,

    Echo replies, and lamentation loud
    Reverberates from Thrace to Delos Isle;
    Itylus grieves, for whom the nightingale
    Sweetly as ever tunes her Daulian strain.
    And over Tenedos the flagship burns.

    How shall men loiter when the great moon shines
    Opaque upon the sail, and Argive seas
    Rear like blue dolphins their cerulean curves?
    Samos is fallen, Lesbos streams with fire,
    Etna in rage, Canopus cold in hate,
    Summon the Orphic bard to stranger dreams.

    And so for us who raise Athene’s torch.
    Sufficient to her message in this hour:
    Sons of Columbia, awake, arise!

  • confused as to why says:

    @confused as to why we would have a portrait of george grenville?

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous where can i sign that university guest book?

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Bwog, where are all the dead black guys?

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous Buried beneath the lynching tree? I mean, really, we get it. Our country fucked up race relations. Is it really necessary to keep bring up the issue of race here

      1. Woah, sorry there o_O says:

        @Woah, sorry there o_O I honestly didn’t think that comment would hit any sore spots? or at least, certainly no more than those turned off by Bwog’s own choice in title – I mean, I can understand if you didn’t think it was all that cute/funny/whatever… but please don’t mistake what I’d intended to be a playful and not-at-all serious comment for a misguided criticism against this nation (or even the university) for poor treatment of minorities years ago. Race was brought up in the blogpost itself, in no way was I trying to step on anyone’s toes here.

        1. i wish says:

          @i wish you had.

          it’s true. when i first arrived to columbia, i went into butler and felt out of place (paintings of these dead white men and the engravings outside)…still do at times.

          this nation fucked up race relations and, in many ways, still does.

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