Memorial Design for Kent State University / Jackson State University Shootings of 1970

2010–2012, College of DuPage

This sculpture commemorates the tragic events of 1970—the killings 

of four students at Kent State University by the Ohio National Guard, and the killings of two students at Jackson State University by the Mississippi State Police. This memorial incorporates the wood from four maple trees planted a few days after May 4, 1970—the original memorial gesture—by College of DuPage students, faculty and staff. 

These trees were unduly cut down, then consequently preserved in 2010. I was commissioned by the College to symbolically integrate this material into a continued, commemorative work. Additionally, the remembrance of two Jackson State University students killed on May 15, 1970, became part of the original memorial, and this recognition has been retained in my design.

The basic structure of this memorial is that of a table, or broad lectern surface. The trees representing the four Kent State students, Allison Krause, Jeffrey Miller, Sandra Lee Schreuer and William Schroeder, are individually placed and defined by two sections stacked: the trunk is attached below the table plane with its medium size disk centered above. The unique profile of each cross-section and its configuration of annual tree rings can be understood as portraits of the four students. A single twig from each tree, bound together as a bouquet and cast in bronze, is placed below the Marvin Bell poem plaque. The common, natural material and its age speak to their shared fate and historical significance.

James Green and Phillip Gibbs, African American students at Jackson State University, are symbolized by a pair of vessel-like forms. These polished bronzes are fluted, as in classical columns, which are based, of course, on fallen logs, and at this size signify for me: flower, plant, flame, lantern and seed – all suggestive of growth or light. The circling lines on their rustic bronze base refer back to the tree rings, but also suggest outward movement, just as the civil rights movement in this country advanced greater inclusion.

Two bronze plaques offer historical description and metaphor. One is a close replication of the original statement by those from the College in 1970, and the second is the poem “Green” by Marvin Bell, which succinctly expresses the meaning of Kent State, conflict, racism, grief and regret.

The images presented here were taken in my studio upon completion. The permanent site designated for this work is in the College Library.