Glass illuminates stories of school’s past

Feb. 29, 2012
Jenny Redfern

Maybe it’s a story of a drummer boy. Or maybe it’s the evolution of Siloam Springs. Or, maybe it’s a depiction of an alien invasion—there are pictures of cornfields, a strange antennae and a series of obscure acronyms after all.

Whatever the story is behind the Cathedral’s stained glass windows, it’s not widely known. Though hundreds of students pass by these masterpieces every day, few know the true tale etched into their glass.

The 10 stained glass windows were first installed in 1957, the work of Jack Whitacre and German artist Max Marcinie.

“Early stained glass windows told the story of Scripture for the illiterate,” chaplain Rod Reed said, “These stained glass windows tell the story of John Brown University.”

Actually, the windows have a two-part message. The top-center medallions portray the events and aspects of the life of Christ. The bottom-center panels depict the events and aspects in the history and development of JBU. The two stories begin on the front left window, continue down the left side, and begin again on the front right window.

The story of Jesus is more easily discerned, starting with the manger scene of his birth, highlighting well-known passages of the Gospels, and finishing with his ascension. However, those unfamiliar with JBU’s history may find the bottom panels confusing.

So here is the history of JBU, as told by the Cathedral stained glass windows.

First window: The Salvation Army flag, tambourine, coins, drum and drumbeater represent the conversion of John Brown.

Second window: The white building is a tabernacle, emphasizing the evangelistic ministry of Brown.

Third window: The cornfield, shocks of grain, mortar box, shovel, lumber and “charter” held in hand all identify the founding of Southwestern Collegiate Institute.

Fourth window: The “Old White Building” stands for the early days of John E. Brown College.

Fifth window: The shield with hands, lamp, heart, 1934, graduates and diplomas signify the chartering of John Brown University as a degree-granting institution.

Sixth window: The KUOA transmitter with “Rod of God” in the background paint a picture of Brown’s radio ministry.

Seventh window: The heads, lamp and words symbolize the academic “HEAD” aspect of the JBU program.

Eighth window: The cross, heart, anchors and flowers characterize the spiritual “HEART” aspect of the JBU program.

Ninth window: The mallet in the worker’s hand, sheets of plans, triangle and gearwheel represent the vocational “HAND” aspect of the JBU program.

Tenth window: The KGER, KOME, KUOA, buildings and moneybag all stand for the financial endowments and foundations established for JBU by Brown.

Through a beautiful, simplistic design, the stained glass windows portray how JBU became the institution it is today. However, students may still prefer to entertain stories of alien invasions instead.

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