Alma Mater

close-up of the Alma Mater at the University of Illinois with trees in the background
Perhaps the most recognizable symbol of the Urbana-Champaign campus is the iconic Alma Mater statue.

Crafted by the renowned sculptor and alumnus Lorado Taft ‘1879 and unveiled on Alumni Day, June 11, 1929, it depicts, in Taft’s own words,

“a benign and majestic woman in scholastic robes, who rises from her throne and advances a step with outstretched arms, a gesture of generously greeting her children.” 

Behind her are figures of a woman representing “learning” and a man depicting “labor” joining hands. Together they symbolize the University’s motto, “Learning and Labor.” Engraved on the base of the statue is the inscription, “To thy happy children of the future, those of the past send greetings.”

A 2018 documentary produced for the Big Ten Network captures the passion and effort behind Taft’s masterpiece.


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