SLU’s History on Display

“Always at the Frontier”

Throughout the school year, Saint Louis University’s bicentennial year has been marked by several events. The most recent was the opening of “Always at the Frontier,” on Friday, March 3, an art exhibit at the Saint Louis University Museum of Art. The exhibit, which will run through Dec. 30, 2018, is based on a book written by Dr. Dolores Byrnes, commemorating SLU’s 200 year-long history.

The opening was attended by Jesuits, students, faculty and alumni, who were greeted by a wall of past presidents, dating back to Francois Niel in 1818. Among the guests was one of the men on the wall, Fred Pestello, president of Saint Louis University.

From his spot in the center of the gallery, Pestello thanked the Bicentennial planning committee and praised Byrnes for her dedication. He called the school special because of its status as the oldest university in the Midwest. “It has survived and thrived, not without difficulty,” he acknowledged.

Between the discoveries, speakers and hors-d’oeuvres, attendees mingled with old friends as they admired the collection of the past. Petruta Lipan, director of SLUMA, says the purpose of basing the exhibit off of the book was to transition the visitor from the pages of the book through the history of Saint Louis University. Her thinking process while planning the layout was to balance that engagement and to make the book come to life.

Detailed on the walls is SLU’s journey, from a small band of Jesuits to the opening of Grand Hall, and artifacts and photographs are laid out to guide patrons along. The exhibit also features the University’s accomplishments and advancements. Starting with social justice, SLU’s history of combating injustice is depicted with photos from all decades of students and faculty protesting segregation, racism, police brutality and violence in South America.

From there, the exhibit moves to medical findings, technological advancements and athletic achievements. The exhibit ends with a collage of current students with a quote that reads: “Our future is in good hands. Our students’.”

The exhibit is not only a showcase of the construction of buildings, but a showcase of the people that have made the University what it is today. Such as Emory Webre, a parishioner of College Church, who spent much of his career researching Jesuits, as well as John Wade, who works in the library and graduated from SLU in 1973. Byrnes, in her closing remarks said, “The stories are so powerful. Be proud of SLU and be proud of your association with it.”