[tabi] article from the Democrat; more on Ruby Diamond

  • From: "Allison and Chip Orange" <acorange@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <tabi@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 24 Nov 2010 18:03:47 -0500

Hi all,

below is an article which ran in the Democrat a few weeks ago, which
discusses the owls in Ruby Diamond, and their significance to FSU.  

The man who is head of the master craftsmen program now at FSU, did one of
the projects for us (a stained glass window), when we were building our
house back in 95.  Even back then he was known for etching glass, using a
high pressure spray of diamond particles.  He was also known for his stained
glass work, and for any number of other types of artistry and craftsmen
skills.  He and his wife both were known I should say, and they had a studio
(I think in Quincy), where we went for the design sessions; we got to see a
lot of their workshop and techniques.


Published: October 10, 2010
Gerald Ensley: What's with all the owls?
Images speak to wisdom and FSU's history

Gerald Ensley
The View From Here


Owls have always been popular in Tallahassee.

All the common owls of Florida inhabit our area. We have a couple of schools
for whom owls are the mascot: Gretchen Everhart (home of the annual Owl Run)
and Springwood Elementary (school song lyric: "We give a hoot because we're
Springwood Owls you see").

But at Florida State University, owls are enjoying a resurgence.

The remodeling of Ruby Diamond Auditorium added two hand-carved owls on the
entrance stairs to greet visitors. An owl in flight hangs from the ceiling
of the auditorium.

There are owls etched in the glass doors of Westcott Hall, which houses Ruby
Diamond. Owls are etched into plaques fronting the flagpoles at Westcott.

Next door, there is an owl carved in stone over the entrance to the Eppes
Building. Across campus, there is an owl carved in stone over an archway of
the psychology building.

A new campus mentoring society, Women For FSU, has made the owl its symbol.

"We are harkening back to our tradition," said Donna McHugh, assistant vice
president for university relations. "We're not coming back with (a
proliferation of owl images) so much as we are trying to expose these
(current) generations to all of our past history."

Yes, Seminoles are the symbol of FSU. But owls were the university's first

The owl, representing wisdom, was the symbol of West Florida Seminary, the
name under which FSU was created in 1851. When the school became the Florida
State College in 1901, a new seal was created featuring an owl flanked by
two torches
- to illuminate the owl's wisdom and knowledge. In 1918, an owl was carved
in stone over the entrance of the Eppes Building, as it was built to house
the school's education department.

(The Eppes Building later became home of the FSU psychology department,
which is why an owl is carved in stone at the new psychology building on
Call Street.)

The owl disappeared from the seal in 1912, when a new seal for the Florida
State College for Women was designed by a student, Agnes Granberry - though
it lived on symbolically. The owl was replaced by a third torch, and the
seal received the Latin motto Vires, Artes, Mores. The motto meant the
students were being educated physically (Vires), mentally (Artes) and
morally (Mores) - and the owl's wisdom was represented in the middle torch.
After slight adjustments in 1947, that remains the FSU seal.

FSU always kept an eye on its owl history. The Eppes Building owl got a good
cleaning in 2000 when the building was renovated. The Class of 2000 donated
three granite plaques commemorating the owl symbol at the flagpoles in front
of Westcott.

But FSU has added to the tradition with the recently completed renovation of
Ruby Diamond Auditorium. McHugh said former president T.K. Wetherell wanted
the remodeling to have features that "had a strong 'wow' factor and
incorporated our heritage."

Out of brainstorming meetings with Wetherell, College of Music Dean Don
Gibson, Master Craftsman program director Bob Bischoff and architect David
Gilchrist came two murals in the auditorium, celebrating night and day in a
forest like the one that once occupied the hill where Westcott sits. And
more owls.

Bischoff etched the four stages of FSU seals, including two with owls, into
the front doors of Westcott. His Master Craftsmen workers constructed a
winged owl for the ceiling of the auditorium. An artist in Bali sculpted the
two owls on the stairway.

"Owls have been around forever in academia in western culture," Gilchrist
"But it does have big historical meaning (at FSU) and it worked out well."

Certainly, owls have been long revered. An owl was the symbol of Athena, the
Greek goddess of wisdom. Native Americans considered owls a symbol of sacred
knowledge. Early Europeans considered them wise. Owls were the companions of
early African medicine men.

Of course, in real life, owls are predatory birds who swoop around in the
darkness devouring rodents, small animals and insects. The ancient Mayans
considered them symbols of death and destruction; in medieval times, some
believed owls were witches and shapeshifters.

But, apparently, their predatory qualities also suggested wisdom.

"Perhaps, it has something to do with their stillness (as they sit and watch
before attacking)," said wildlife biologist Kate Halley, of the Florida Fish
and Wildlife Commission.

"An owl can rotate its head (270) degrees to see in all directions," said
Bruce Bickley, a retired FSU professor specializing in folklore. "That makes
a good predator but also a good observer."

And now FSU has a few more owls to observe.

Contact Senior Writer Gerald Ensley at (850) 599-2310 or

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  • » [tabi] article from the Democrat; more on Ruby Diamond - Allison and Chip Orange