Founder’s portrait returns to RU campus on Feb. 22 for his 147th birthday
Join the party this month as the portrait of founding Radford University President John Preston McConnell returns to campus as part of the annual McConnell Day celebration.
“We’re very excited to get the portrait of Dr. McConnell back,” McConnell Library Dean Steve Helm said. “When you consider what he tried to achieve when he helped found this school, you find he was a man worth celebrating.”
This year’s McConnell Day festivities on Feb. 22 will mark the 147th anniversary of the educator’s birth. In addition to the customary McConnell Day birthday cake and short presentation on the founding president’s life, guests will be treated to the unveiling of the newly restored McConnell portrait.
Commissioned during the Great Depression, the portrait originally hung in the lobby of the McConnell Library over the circulation desk. In that location it was exposed to decades of damaging light as well as temperature and humidity changes. In recent years, many cracks, chips and other imperfections began appearing in the paint, necessitating professional cleaning and restoration, Helm said.
In December 2011, McConnell Library sent the portrait to Sharon Koehler, a private conservator at Hampden-Sydney College. Koehler’s conservation work has included projects for numerous museums and institutions, including Royal British Columbia Museum in Victoria, Canada, and the Longwood Center for the Visual Arts at Longwood University. Koehler will join Helm in presenting the portrait and outlining the restoration process.
Two short presentations about President McConnell will accompany the unveiling. RU Assistant Dean of Students David Horton will discuss the monumental influences of McConnell’s mother, Ginsey, and his wife, Clara, on his life and work. Library archivist Gene Hyde will speak on Southwest Virginia Inc., a regional development group led by McConnell.
The McConnell Day celebration will begin at 2 p.m. in the McConnell Library Reading Room. All members of the Radford community are invited to attend and join in honoring John Preston McConnell’s legacy.
– Submitted by Dan Waidelich, Radford University
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