During a Colonials Weekend ceremony, the School of Business unveiled a historic bust of Benjamin Franklin to honor the namesake university that merged with GW in 1987.
As part of Colonials Weekend, the George Washington University School of Business formally unveiled a newly installed bust of Benjamin Franklin on Friday afternoon.
The bust, which researchers believe is from 1785, was part of the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery’s collection and had been in storage since it was last exhibited in 2016. Now, thanks to a 2019 GW Legacy Challenge donation from Benjamin Franklin University alumnus Karl Boettcher, the bust has a new home on the sixth floor of Duquès Hall in the lobby outside of GWSB Dean Anuj Mehrotra’s office.
Dr. Mehrotra said he wanted to honor Ben Franklin for his success as an entrepreneur and businessman.
“Benjamin Franklin is one of the most fascinating figures in American history—patriot, philosopher, man of letters, scientist,” Dr. Mehrotra said. “As an educator, I greatly admire his lifelong quest for knowledge, his drive to never stop learning.”
Researchers believe the Founding Father presented the bronze-painted plaster bust to the French Academy of Sciences in 1785. It was brought to the United States in the historic 1949 Merci Train, which was filled with gifts from France to thank the United States for its aid during World War II. The bust was presented to the Benjamin Franklin University in April 1949, according to newspaper clippings from that time.
The bust had been lost until August 2014, when an independent researcher discovered that GW acquired it in 1987 when it merged with Benjamin Franklin University. During the merger, once the bust was discovered it was safely stored in an off-site, secure storage facility. In 2016, the bust was on view at the Brady Art Gallery as part of an exhibition highlighting pieces in GW’s permanent collection that had not been exhibited in more than 10 years.
Researchers believe this bust of Benjamin Franklin was crafted by French artist Jean-Jacques Caffieri.
Mr. Boettcher, as a Benjamin Franklin University alumnus, established a $100,000 annuity for GWSB’s accounting and finance departments through the 2019 GW Legacy Challenge, which provided a 10 percent match in funding. He directed those matching funds to the Brady Art Gallery for this bust installation and to the Fowler Career Center to provide career support for accounting and finance students.
He said installing the historic bust is tremendously important to him and other alumni of the Benjamin Franklin University School of Accountancy and Financial Management, and he was happy to take advantage of the donation-match program.
“It’s a way of keeping the Ben Franklin legacy alive here at GW,” Mr. Boettcher said. “It’s a great symbol of the ties not only between the two universities, but between two of the great founding fathers of the United States.
“The training I received at Ben Franklin changed my life and enriched my government-wide accounting and financial management career,” he continued. “It’s great to have the opportunity to give back to change the lives of GW students of the future.”