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Work begins on Joseph Vaughn Plaza

Last updated October 2, 2020

By Tom Evelyn, Vice President for University Communications

Furman University will break ground next week on the Joseph Vaughn Plaza, which will be home to a statue honoring Furman’s first Black undergraduate student and establish a place for reflection and celebration of those who helped to make the university a more equitable and inclusive place.

The plaza will incorporate the front steps leading up to the James B. Duke Library and the grassy area to the right, facing the building. The statue of Vaughn will stand in the right corner of the stairs, and is based on an iconic photo of Vaughn taken during his first semester on Furman’s campus in the winter of 1965.

During the construction of the plaza, which is expected to be completed by January, the Duke Library will remain open. Part of the demolition work will include removing the old and broken stones and bricks inside the plaza, which will be enclosed in a construction fence. The project also includes replacing lighting and landscaping and grading the plaza and adjacent walkway to improve access to the library for persons with disabilities.

Joseph Vaughn sculpture

Sculptor’s progress on the Joseph Vaughn statue.

Funding for the $677,000 project will come from a combination of private gifts from fundraising efforts currently underway and budget that had already been set aside for campus improvements. Furman has raised $93,700 so far, including more than $87,000 in gifts from trustees.

The sculpting of the statue of Joseph Vaughn is near completion. The next steps include creating molds and then casting the sculpture in bronze. The statue is scheduled to be completed in time for an unveiling at the second-annual Joseph Vaughn Day on Jan. 29.

The Joseph Vaughn statue and plaza are the result of a set of recommendations from Furman’s Task Force on Slavery and Justice that were included in its “Seeking Abraham” report. The creation of Joseph Vaughn Day and an enhanced scholarship in his name were also among these and other recommendations that were endorsed or approved by the university’s Board of Trustees in 2019.

Other recommendations on which the Board of Trustees took action included removing “James C.” from Furman Hall and renaming Lakeside Housing for Clark Murphy, and installing plaques to provide context for these changes, which were completed this past spring. Ceremonies celebrating these changes were postponed first because of inclement weather and later COVID-19. The university is looking for ways to note these important changes to campus in other events.

“We sincerely appreciate the efforts of so many members of our Furman family to more fully tell our story and to create a campus environment that is both welcoming and reflective of the pioneers who introduced diversity to our campus,” said Furman President Elizabeth Davis. “It is no small responsibility that we have to continue to strive for a more equitable and inclusive Furman community. I find it sweetly poetic that in our honoring of Joseph Vaughn, the changes to the library entrance will create improved access for a different, but often marginalized group of our community. Joseph Vaughn’s impact continues to this day. May the same be said of all of us one day.”


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