UM in state of becoming

Published 5:47 pm Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The inauguration of Dr. John W. Stewart III as the University of Montevallo’s 15th president Oct. 14 was centered on a single-word theme, “Becoming.”

Reminders of the theme were omnipresent, tying the day’s activities together among purple-and-gold embellishments. The theme was inspired by the 16-foot “Becoming” sculpture created nine years ago by art professor, Ted Metz, and his students. It is a 5,000-pound, bronze personification of the teaching/learning process. Standing on the corner of King Quad, it speaks to the “Montevallo experience.” The sculpture features two hands. A younger hand — that of the student — reaches skyward, suggesting the potential for continuous growth and development. The more mature hand -— that of the university as teacher — appears to have been guiding the student’s hand, but now has fallen back, representing the new role of support for the student.

Looped over the index finger of the student hand are two antique keys. One represents the acquisition of academic knowledge. The other represents attainments nurtured at the school, such as character, independent thinking, confidence, inquisitiveness and other qualities.

Likewise, the sculpture is a reminder that each individual is in a constant state of becoming — academically, personally and spiritually.

One definition of the word “becoming” suggests that change is occurring, but that the potential for even more change lies ahead.

In his inaugural address, President Stewart noted that Montevallo has had the ability to adapt and change with the times throughout its 114-year history.

He said his plans for the university’s future include increasing enrollment by 500, thereby adding $5.5 million to the school’s revenue to make up for significant state budget cuts. Spreading the word far and wide about the exceptional value of a Montevallo education is also a goal. The university, he said, offers a private-college experience at a public-university value. “Yes, we’re proud to be a state institution, but we’ll be operating a little more like a private enterprise,” he emphasized in his address.

As mementos of the presidential investiture, those attending the inaugural luncheon on Main Quad, just a stone’s throw from the “Becoming” sculpture, were given replicas of the symbolic antique keys that are distinctive parts of the landmark.

Cynthia Shackelford is the director of public relations for the University of Montevallo.