By Lynn Hughes
TERRE HAUTE — On Friday, when David G. Behrs was installed as the 15th president of St. Mary-of-the-Woods College, he received a very special medallion — a medallion that combined the talents of many to convey the inauguration theme, Journey of Promise.
The SMWC presidential medallion was designed by Bill Wolfe, a part-time security guard on campus and an Indiana artist who has his studio in West Terre Haute. Wolfe, who is accomplished in mediums of both two- and three-dimensional art, wanted the design of the presidential medallion to represent the journey of the ages and the future.
He designed the medallion by taking a maple leaf from one of the campus trees and encasing it with clay to go under the college logo. He then spoke with Teresa Clark, the artist who designed the sculpture of St. Mother Theodore Guerin, and she agreed to create a rubber mold for the medallion. The design was then re-created in wax from the rubber mold and sent to the foundry to be cast in bronze using the lost wax method.
To represent the tradition of the college, Wolfe chose to incorporate an element from the St. Mary-of-the-Woods College ring. Internationally worn by SMWC graduates, the ring is visible evidence of the strong traditions of academic excellence and the strong sense of community, which are the roots of SMWC. The ring design includes the SMW insignia carved in black onyx to serve as a reminder that those who wear the gold and onyx are educated women guided by “virtus cum scientia.” For the presidential medallion, Wolfe took the black onyx ring top and placed it just above the SMWC logo.
Wolfe then spoke with the Sisters of Providence to see if they might have a few beads from a rosary to incorporate into the presidential medallion design. It was at that time that he learned that the Sisters of Providence brought coffee bean trees from Kentucky during the Civil War and planted them outside of Providence Hall. The coffee beans were then used to make their rosaries. The Sisters allowed Wolfe to remove two coffee beans from the rosary of the late Sister Joseph Patrice to use within the design of the presidential medallion.
The cord that connects the coffee beans, onyx ring top, and the bronze medallion was handwoven by college employee Kim Dispennett. Benicia Broeker of Beading Paradise in Terre Haute assembled all the pieces together to create the final product.
The case for the presidential medallion even has a connection to The Woods. Wolfe recruited the Sisters of Providence carpenter, Tony DuBois, who also made the casket for St. Mother Theodore Guerin, to create a display case using wood from the campus.
“The Woods has so many right here that have artistic skills, and I wanted to utilize those talents and use as many materials as possible from the campus for this special medallion,” Wolfe said.