With the exception of a brief period in the 1980s, when it was removed for cleaning and repair, graduates from the 1920s and beyond can all remember one thing in common: the copper statue of founder Edward Austin Sheldon that stands in front of the building that bears his name, the college’s Old Main.
Whether it’s actually crafted from the melted pennies donated by New York’s schoolchildren — as college lore has it — or paid for by their collected coins, the statue dates back to 1899. It depicts Sheldon instructing a small child, using the Oswego Method of object teaching. The founder holds a sphere, which was one of the objects that made up the tool kit of instructors in the Pestalozzian Method, which Sheldon popularized among American educators.
The statue was created by sculptor John Francis Brines and stood in the State Capitol in Albany until 1922, when it came to campus. It has moved over the years, from the front hall of Old Main to its lawn, from storage in the 1980s to “Sheldon Park” between Hewitt Union and Culkin Hall after refurbishment
as the 1985 Senior Class Gift, but wherever it stands, the founder’s statue remains a symbol of the institution. Generations of co-eds have claimed a seat on Sheldon’s lap and Oswego’s 75,000 alumni have waited patiently for the “apple” to drop.
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