New Sculpture at TSRI Dedicated to Memory of Norton B. Gilula
By Mika Ono
A new statue entitled "The Flame of Knowledge" was dedicated at The Scripps
Research Institute (TSRI) on September 10 in memory of Norton B. Gilula,
the first dean of the graduate program and chair of the Department of
Cell Biology. The 15-foot-high polished steel sculpture stands next to
the Immunology building at the entrance to the south parking lot.
At the foot of the statue, whose sleek, curving surface reflects the surrounding trees, sky, and light, Richard Lerner, president of TSRI, introduced the dedication program. John Diekman, chair of the TSRI Board of Directors, welcomed the audience and paid tribute to Gilula, who he described as someone "who made a real difference."
The sculpture's creator, TSRI Trustee John Safer, spoke on the inspiration for the piece. He said, "I was at a Board meeting here shortly after we lost Bernie and I was thinking about his life and what he accomplished... most importantly that he created this remarkable graduate studies program and not only created it but made it into one of the outstanding educational institutions in the world in an incredibly short time... I conceived of the idea of a sculpture that would be the flame of knowledge... symbolic of what education is aboutan unending search, a groping upward. But you never quite get there. So it's cut off at the top and that also spoke for Bernie's lifethat he'd done so much and was cut off."
Safer, a graduate of Harvard Law School, has led a career as a successful entrepreneur as well as an internationally renowned artist. His sculptures are included in over 500 private collections and public sites and have been exhibited in museums, embassies and universities throughout the world. Safer was recently commissioned to create a 70-foot-high sculpture to be the symbolic theme of the Smithsonian Institution's new Air and Space Museum. He has also been selected to create a piece for the new World War II memorial on the Washington mall.
Sandra Schmid, chair of the Department of Cell Biology and a long-time colleague of Gilula's, also offered her thoughts on the meaning of the sculpture. "In the coming decades there will be fewer and fewer on this campus who were lucky enough to have known [Bernie] personally," she said. "So the statue of the flame of knowledge becomes a symbol. I think, however, that Bernie would agree, in fact insist, that it should not be a symbol so much of the past, not so much a remembrance of one man, but a symbol for the present and the future... So this statue should be a [symbol] of the idealistic side of sciencethe side that Bernie walked on. Let it be an inspiration to make this idealism a daily reality."
Bessie Huang, former Associate Professor in the Department of Cell Biology and Gilula's widow, thanked Lerner, Diekman, members of the Board, and Safer for honoring Gilula's memory in this way. "I know that Bernie would be pleased, feel deeply honored, and at the same time overwhelmed by this tribute," she said. "He would be particularly moved by the fact that the artist of this magnificent sculpture is John Safera man that he so admired not only for his extraordinary talents as an artist but for the way he lived his life with humanity and a constant conviction that 'life is good.'"
While the dedication ceremony was over after a few minutes, "The Flame of Knowledge" will shine brightly on the TSRI campus for many years to come.