Noted sculptor's work now graces university campus

A bronze bust of George Washington by LDS sculptor Dr. Avard T. Fairbanks now marks the entrance to George Washington University after a son of the noted sculptor donated the bust to the university.

Dr. David N.F. Fairbanks and his wife, Sylvia, donated the work, which was unveiled and dedicated Feb. 16. The bust is located at the northwest corner of the campus."This sculpture represents George Washington at the height of his powers, as president and founding father of our country," said Lenore Miller, George Washington University curator, at the unveiling of the bust. "In its expression of fatherly concern and its scale and technical achievement, it is truly a fitting monument to human nature and a concern for individual freedom so characteristic of the real man."

George Washington University Pres. Stephen Joel Trachtenberg unveiled the bust in the ceremony. U.S. Sen. Robert F. Bennett (R-Utah), who is a member of the Church, gave the dedicatory prayer.

The ceremony celebrated Avard Fairbanks and his life, and many comments at the event focused on his dedication to the pursuit of excellence in education, art and Christlike service to others. Avard Fairbanks died on New Year's Day in 1987, only two months before his 90th birthday.

"Father's favorite scriptures came from the New Testament, especially those relating to the life and example of Jesus Christ," remarked David Fairbanks, who has served for the past 20 years on the clinical medical staff at George Washington University Hospital.

Speaking to the nearly 100 guests assembled at the ceremony, Ira Telford, patriarch of the Washington D.C. Stake and a longtime friend of Avard Fairbanks, said: "He captured the inner light.

"He saw his creations not as globs of clay, but as the building of muscles, and he called out the names of each muscle as he built in correct anatomical detail," Brother Telford added. "George Washington's statue is aesthetically beautiful and correct. If he smiles at us today, he will use correct muscles in his face!"

"Father was a scholar-artist, one of a species that is now almost totally extinct," commented Jonathan Fairbanks, curator of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, who spoke at the dedication ceremony. "Those were artists who knew art history deeply and who admired and connected their work and lives with past achievements - ones who improved on past achievements rather than rejecting traditions."

In the dedicatory prayer, Sen. Bennett spoke of Avard Fairbanks as "one of thy most talented sons." He also reflected on George Washington, the man, and his devotion to the building of America, "a choice land above all others." Sen. Bennett referred to the occasion as a "dedication to the preservation of an institution."

Avard Fairbanks created the bust, cast in 1976, as a lasting commemoration of the nation's bicentennial. It was stored for many years at the Salt Lake City International Airport until it was moved recently to George Washington University. Historically the educational paths of many members of the Church have passed through the university on their way to a career in the nation's capital, including LDS Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

"You don't think of George Washington as someone who was attached to education, but he had profound thoughts on the subject, and his presence through this sculpture reminds us of that fact," said Lynn Shipway, a member of the university administrative staff who attended the dedication.

In addition to the Angel Moroni atop the Washington Temple, four statuary by Avard Fairbanks are on display in the Capitol in Washington, and three marble busts are on display at Ford's Theatre here.

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