An education is not unlike an artistic masterpiece — each book and class creates a scene on the grand intellectual canvas of the mind, traversing decades and epochs while providing illumination and inspiration.
It's fitting, then, that for its 75th anniversary celebration, Utah Valley University will unveil later this month an impressive stained glass mural titled, “Roots of Knowledge." Fueled by private donations, the large glass panels depict the expansion of human intellectual advancement across civilizations, cultures, and time. The ambitious undertaking — conceived of by artist Thomas Holdman and mid-wifed by UVU president Matthew Holland — stands as a subtle reminder that if Utah is to craft the next chapter of innovation, its educational offerings to all citizens must be second to none. In this respect UVU is leading the way.
It was not long ago that UVU was an also-ran among higher education institutions in the Beehive State. Yet, in the past decade it has emerged from the mountainous shadow of its neighbor Brigham Young University to become the state's largest school in terms of enrollment with nearly 35,000 students. Its rapid and sustained growth was largely built on a scrappy utilitarian focus on delivering solid, lower cost instruction to an ever-broadening base of students. Over the years, this focus has built a nationally branded educational powerhouse that the state can be rightly proud of.
A walk across campus, however, provides a visual reminder of the austere legacy of the institution. Rapid construction in numerous plain concrete buildings dominates the campus skyline. There are few visual clues to remind visitors about the school’s lofty educational mission. This will change with the installation of Holdman’s majestic stained glass mural.
While some will question an investment that steps away from the school’s utilitarian aesthetic, this privately funded mural is a fitting statement of the promising future of mankind’s quest for knowledge, and UVU’s contribution to this end.
Like so many great endeavors, this project has come to symbolize the collective nature of educational triumph. From the artist’s vision, to the philanthropists’ generosity, to the makers and manufacturers of the materials, to the university’s work as convener and to the professors and students who toiled to bring this effort to fruition, the final product will become more than a mosaic of stained glass, but a monument to the individuals who combined their talent and treasure to inspire a community. Indeed, the same collective that crafted this mural is the kind of communal action required to catalyze the state’s educational offerings and performance.
As Utah strives to be a national leader in the ever evolving landscape of education, it is fitting and timely that Utah Valley would come together to erect a visual depiction of the history and future promise afforded through gaining knowledge. There are few better places to display this ode to learning than the university’s library. Visitors, grade schoolers, prospective and current students and alumni will all find encouragement in their quest for knowledge as they consider this artistically inviting 10 by 200 foot addition to campus.
Great legacies are built on a combination of past breakthroughs and alluring vistas of the future. UVU’s legacy is enhanced by this important visual expression of the “Roots of Knowledge.” We applaud the artists, designers, donors and the school’s administrators as well as the professors and students who crafted this artistic exclamation dedicated to the acme of human achievement.