Ceremony to mark completion of Science Quad table construction

The dedication ceremony for the recently completed public art installation on campus by artist Jenny Holzer will take place Friday at 4 p.m. The ceremony will occur in Science Quad at the site of the newly-erected stone table, which was built in memory of College Professor J. Hodge Markgraf ’52.

Speakers at the ceremony will include President Falk and Professor of Chemistry Charles Lovett. The emcee will be Lisa Corrin, director of the Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA).

The artwork, entitled “715 Molecules,” consists of a stone table with four benches and is covered with 715 chemical molecule structures, which were sandblasted onto the table. The tabletop is 16.5 feet long, four feet wide and five inches thick, according to Professor of Chemistry Jay Thoman ’82, who was involved in the project. The benches are 17 inches wide and four inches thick and have lengths to match the tabletop.
“The table is meant to be used,” Thoman said. “You’ll be able to sit and enjoy it soon.”

Markgraf, to whom the table is dedicated, held many positions at the College, including professor of chemistry, provost, college marshal and vice president of alumni relations and development. He spent over 50 years at the College, including his time as a student, faculty member and administrator. Markgraf joined the chemistry department in 1959. After retiring in 1989, he remained involved on campus until his death in 2007.
“Hodge Markgraf was a remarkable man,” Dean Bolton said. “When I arrived at Williams in 1995 he was, in many respects, the model teacher and researcher. He taught thousands of students superbly, but he also took guiding younger faculty very seriously. My time here was deeply influenced by Hodge in many, many ways.”
Markgraf had become familiar with Holzer’s work a few years before his death and had begun to consider commissioning a piece of artwork for the campus before his passing. After he died, students, alumni and many others continued his vision and contributed funds as they saw the project through.

The chemistry department in particular was very involved in the process. “It was a true collaboration with Professor Thoman and a number of current students and alumni who had studied with Hodge,” Corrin said.
“The chemistry department was involved extensively in the past year and a half, providing suggestions on which molecule designs to include, renderings of about 1000 of those suggestions and extensive proofreading,” Thoman said.

Students who worked on the project include Charles Seipp ’11, Karen Chiu ’10, Mindy Lee ’12 and Rachel Patel ’12. Alumni who did their undergraduate theses with Markgraf and also assisted in the process included Scott Snyder ’94, professor of chemistry at Columbia and Dave Vosburg ’97, professor of chemistry at Harvey Mudd. Additionally, Margaret Adler ’99 G’11, a graduate work-study intern at WCMA, helped Holzer extensively during the installation process.

While the sculpture was installed last month, the ceremony is taking place this week so that members of Markgraf’s family and Holzer can be in attendance. “The hour was chosen to best accommodate students, faculty, staff and out-of-town guests,” Thoman said. “I’ll highlight the artist’s schedule as a large constraint – it is a privilege to have her attend.”

According to Thoman, the area around the table is currently roped off to minimize soil compaction and allow the grass to grow. “By graduation day, all of the ropes in the Science Quad will be down, and the whole quad will look beautiful,” he said.