On Friday, Nov. 4 the Samuel Morris statues located in front of Modelle Metcalf Visual Arts Center and the Rupp Communications Arts building were ceremoniously re-dedicated after undergoing alterations earlier this semester.
The re-dedication featured reflections on the power of the story of Samuel Morris as well as a Liberian Blessing from the Sinoe County Association in the Americas.
Morris, a late 19th century Liberian student, touched many lives through his story and its legacy, and has become one of the institution's most notable individuals. His journey from Liberia to the United States, and eventually to Taylor — when it was still located in Fort Wayne — has inspired over six books, nearly a dozen booklets and has led Taylor to name three different dormitories in its history in honor of him, in addition to the statues.
The statues, after being initially constructed to commemorate the school’s 150th anniversary in 1996, were finally completed according to the initial vision that the sculptor, Ken Ryden of Anderson, Indiana, had in mind. This included lining the reflection pools, which are designed in the shape of the Christian fish Ichthus, with brick.
Ryden attended the re-dedication and was honored for his work as sculptor.
Students who spoke included senior and Student Body President Kenley Blake, junior and Black Student Union President Goodness Korie and freshman Afia Asamoah.
“In remembering Samuel Morris, we at the Black Student Union, challenge every one of you,” Korie said. “To pray earnestly, to love selflessly, to lead faithfully and to trust God completely.”
Other speakers included former university president Lowell Haines, President Michael Lindsay, the Rev. Greg Dyson and Josiah Peterson, the hall director for Samuel Morris Hall.
Almost every speaker attributed Taylor’s recovery from financial struggles in the late 19th century to Morris himself.
“Bill Ringenberg says that Sammy Morris kept Taylor alive during those years,” Haines said. “So many potential students heard of this story and came to Taylor. In fact, this place was known by many people not as Taylor University, but as the Sammy Morris school. And also, the sales of some of the books that were written about him helped (Taylor) stay afloat.”
Despite only attending the school for a year and a half before passing away from a severe cold, Morris touched the local Fort Wayne community and the university. He was frequently invited to speak at local churches, and hundreds of spectators lined the streets to pay their respects as his body was carried through the city to Berry United Methodist Church.
Morris’ passing occurred only briefly before the laying of the first cornerstone at Taylor’s now-home in Upland — an event that he was scheduled to speak and sing at.
Dyson spoke of the life of Samuel Morris and the concept of rescue that surrounded each period of his life. From his own rescue to his desire to share his Christian witness for others’ rescue.
“Yes, this conversation (of Samuel Morris) is all about rescue,” Dyson said. “But it’s not a conversation for the 1800s. It’s a conversation for us today, here in Upland, Indiana. A place that Samuel Morris never set foot in. Living graciously, powerfully, prophetically and willing not only to stand for our rights, but for the rights and needs of others, is what rescue is all about.”
The three statues carry names and represent different parts of Morris’ story. The Moment of Truth depicts his escape after being kidnapped by a neighboring tribe. Heeding the Call depicts his journey to freedom after his escape. Sharing the Word shows his resolve to preach the gospel and demonstrates his witness during his time at Taylor.
“As President Haines mentioned a number of folks who would clearly be in the ‘Hall of the Faithful’ at Taylor,” Lindsay said. “Within that, Samuel Morris most assuredly would be at the top. There are so many ways in which he represents the very best of what we aspire to be as a community.”