It was a moment that will be forever sealed in my memory. It changed my thoughts about college and campus life and standing up for a cause. And while part of me is still disturbed about why the statue was removed, I still have trouble coming to any sort of understanding why this had to take place.
He was our college founder. He built our university from a handful of ramshackle structures to become one of the most revered institutions of higher learning in all of Tennessee. And his motto was both simple and profound, erudite and common. “Knowledge is Good.” And it was carved into the base of his statue. That statue of our founder, gazing profoundly over our sprawling campus, inspired generations of students. It inspired my father, and his father before him. And we, the members of Omega Theta Pi, were blessed and honored to have him as our founder and our spiritual guide.
But there were always the nagging rumors. The stories about why he founded an all-male college, at a time when co-education was on the rise. Even when I was an undergraduate, it was understood that ours was an all-male school, with a focus on education and not on the pleasures of the flesh. We heard the rumors about how he had financed the college, rumors about working in partnership with the political machine of the nearby town, where the mayor and his family controlled every municipal service and business within the town’s limits – which included, of course, most of our school of higher learning.
Not every place on campus was geographically within that boundary, and by some error of survey, one fraternity house – Delta Tau Chi – was technically built on land and deed that was in the neighboring community. There were questions as to whether those brothers in ΔΤΧ were truly part of the college, or were in some geographic no-man’s land. Who collected the property taxes? None of us at ΩΘΠ truly knew for sure.
There were attempts to remove the statue before – sometimes the statue would be vandalized in one form or another. One spring, we woke up and found that someone had attached bunny ears to the statue’s head – just in time for Easter. Another time, the statue was painted in green and gold – half green, half gold, with a single grey line down the center, bisecting the statue in half. The argument was that if “Knowledge is Good,” why were the students and their families paying some of the top tuition rates on the East Coast, with little show for it?
Then came that day. That cursed, cursed day. The statue had been vandalized and abused before, and we at ΩΘΠ knew that whatever happened to the statue, we could clean it or remove whatever paraphernalia was added in the previous night. We would need to work fast, though. There was a parade scheduled in town later that afternoon, and if we weren’t part of the parade, we would surely let our university and our brothers down.
We looked outside.
The statue was removed. There was no sign of it anywhere. Those dirty bastards. They would dare remove the very history of our great founder? They would erase history in such a callous and heinous manner?
We, the brothers of ΩΘΠ, vowed that day that if we found the scalawags who defaced our beloved college founder, they would surely rue the day. For shame. Those vandals don’t know the manners of good society, eh? Well, I guess I know enough to turn all of them inside out, those sockdologizing old man-traps!
And then we found out. We found the statue.
Well, we found a piece of the statue.
Because the scoundrels from that outlaw society that existed in a Schrödinger’s cat-like state, had indeed removed the statue in the middle of the night. And they cut off its head. Right at the neck. And the put the head as … I still get nauseous when I recall it … a hood ornament on the front of a disgusting all-black Lincoln Continental! And those ungodly curs had the brazen and unmitigated gall to drive that monstrosity through the streets of our fair town and destroy the good nature between the municipality and our fair university?
It’s been so many years now. Our college finally became a co-ed university. Tuition is still high, but I suppose it could be higher in comparison. The statue was rebuilt, although they never found the original head – and every replacement for the missing head (and there were many) just didn’t look correct.
Perhaps this is truly the final legacy of our beloved institute of higher learning. A man who claimed that, indeed, “knowledge is good,” but in the end, found that too much knowledge can be very bad.
God bless you, Emil Faber, the founder of Faber College.
Sincerely, Gregory Marmalard ’63, father of Gregory Marmalard Jr. ’85, grandfather of Mandy Sue Marmalard-Blutarsky ’08.