For Immediate Release — December 2, 2004

Contact:

Mary E. McCrank

Media Relations Officer

(585) 245-5516

mccrank@geneseo.edu

MYSTERY OF MISSING MINERVA STATUE

BAFFLES SUNY GENESEO OFFICIALS

The statue of the Roman goddess Minerva dominates the library in the Old Main building at the State University of New York at Geneseo. Photograph courtesy SUNY Geneseo.

GENESEO, N.Y. — Wanted: Roman goddess to stand guard over students as they acquire wisdom.

Her name is Minerva, and she has been missing for more than a half century from the State University of New York at Geneseo.

So this week, Milne Library officials plastered wanted posters — some asking, "Have you seen this goddess?" — around campus and in the village in hopes that faculty and staff, nearby residents or alumni may have some clue as to where Minerva is hiding.

A statue of the Roman goddess of wisdom and patron of warriors graced the college’s library in the Old Main building when Geneseo was a normal, or teacher training, school. College historians say all of the state’s normal schools were given statues of Minerva, and Geneseo received its statue in 1906. The 6’2" Minerva statue stood in the entrance of the building until 1921, but was later moved to the ground floor of the library because she weighed 350 pounds.

Minerva was last seen in 1951, before Old Main was razed, and when she was estimated to be 98 years old. The most persistent rumor is that she was razed, along with Old Main, but another rumor is that she was used as rubble to help fill a parking lot on campus. Still, the librarians are hopeful they will find her in one piece.

"I think she’s tucked away. She’s waiting to be found," said Ed Rivenburgh, director of libraries for the college.

Minerva is the Roman counterpart of the Greek goddess Athena. Minerva sprang from the head of Jupiter — her father who was king of the gods — fully grown and in full armor. She was the patron of warriors, defender of home and state, and the embodiment of wisdom, purity and reason. She also was the patron of the arts, handicrafts and trades.

"What didn’t she do? This woman was a remarkable woman before her time," said Rivenburgh.

But Rivenburgh and Liz Argentieri, special collections librarian, are hoping the rumors of her demise are just rumors.

"The Stone Strength of the Past," the college’s history published in 1971, made note of the statue. It reads: "Minerva was seldom noticed by the students. Minerva was the center of attention at one time, though, when her plain features were brightened by an application of lipstick and rouge."

"Usually Minerva passively and somewhat contemptuously observed lesser mortals pursue learning," the book continued.

Rivenburgh wonders if anyone proposed to his college sweetheart under the statue or if it is true students placed cosmetics on her face. He hopes alumni will write or call the library to tell their stories, along with leads to where she might be located.

And as Minerva has a place in the history of the college, library officials have found a place where they plan to put Minerva upon her much-awaited return: The main entrance to Milne Library.

"We’ve cleared a place for her," said Argentieri. "And we hope she comes home."

Anyone with information is encouraged to contact Argentieri at (585) 245-5195 or argente@geneseo.edu.

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