Branstad, Reynolds visit Iowa Wesleyan College for unveiling of Sen. James Harlan statue PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Office of the Governor of the State of Iowa   
Friday, 29 August 2014 14:56

Statue will have new home on campus after 104 years at U.S. Capitol

(DES MOINES) – Gov. Terry E. Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds will visit Iowa Wesleyan College today to welcome home and unveil a statue of Sen. James Harlan.

The Harlan statue had been on display in the U.S. Capitol as part of the National Statuary Hall Collection from 1910 until this year when it was replaced with a statue of Dr. Norman Borlaug of Cresco. The Iowa Legislature voted to put the Harlan statue on permanent loan from the state of Iowa to Iowa Wesleyan College where it will be unveiled today on the University Chapel’s front lawn.

“Senator Harlan was a true statesman and public servant,” said Branstad. “We’re pleased that the Iowa Legislature, the Borlaug State Committee and Iowa Wesleyan College were able to work together to bring the Harlan statue home to Mount Pleasant, where it will be on permanent display.”

“Governor Branstad and I are pleased to be in Mount Pleasant for the unveiling of Senator Harlan’s statue,” said Reynolds. “Senator Harlan was an inspiring leader whose legacy will be shared with generations of Iowans to come.”

Harlan became president of Iowa Wesleyan in 1853 before being elected to the U.S. Senate in 1855. He also served as Secretary of the Interior and was considered a close friend and advisor to President Abraham Lincoln. Harlan’s daughter, Mary, married Robert Todd Lincoln, the 16th president’s son, and the couple’s Mount Pleasant home sits on the north end of the Iowa Wesleyan campus and is known as the Harlan-Lincoln House. Harlan died in Mount Pleasant in 1899 and is buried in Forest Home Cemetery.

“While James Harlan and his legacy belong to all of Iowa, we at Iowa Wesleyan are honored to welcome his statue to a place he himself called home. Harlan was a visionary leader who transformed a young college into a university offering relevant and rigorous academic programs to students in Southeast Iowa and beyond,” said Dr. Steven Titus, President of Iowa Wesleyan College. “Today – 159 years later – as we embark upon a transformative and collaborative strategic planning endeavor, we return to that bold vision of a regional, comprehensive university. It is befitting that here and now, the statue of James Harlan comes home. “

“Today’s unveiling is a milestone not only in terms of recognizing James Harlan’s legacy to Iowa Wesleyan, the state of Iowa and the United States, but also because of the historical, cultural and artistic significance represented by the statue itself,” Department of Cultural Affairs Director Mary Cownie said. “This statue is one of only three to represent Iowa in the National Statuary Hall Collection, which is considered one of the most distinguished collections of art in the world. Accordingly, the unveiling of this statue is a milestone for culture and public art in Iowa.”

In 2011, the Iowa Legislature approved a resolution to replace the statue of Sen. Harlan with one of Borlaug, who received the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the Congressional Gold Medal for his work in developing new varieties of wheat. Borlaug is credited with saving a billion people around the world from hunger and starvation.

The creation of the Borlaug statue and relocation of the Harlan statue was led by the Dr. Norman E. Borlaug Statue Committee appointed by Gov. Branstad and chaired by Ambassador Kenneth M. Quinn. The Department of Cultural Affairs provided administrative support to the Borlaug Committee. Each state is represented in the U.S. Capitol by two statues of notable citizens. The other statue representing Iowa is of former Gov. Samuel Kirkwood.

The unveiling of the Harlan statue will take place today in conjunction with a number of other events throughout Mount Pleasant, including the Opening Ceremonies of the Midwest Old Threshers Reunion and the Ribbon Cutting Celebration of the 1861 Union Block Building, where Belle Babb Mansfield studied law and took the bar exam to become the nation’s first woman attorney in about 1869. A statue of Mansfield is also on display at Iowa Wesleyan College.

For more information on Harlan, please visit the Governor’s Web site.

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