Since 1955 thousands of students and visitors have walked in front of the Donnan Administration Building and glanced at the “thing” on the wall without really studying its meaning.
That “thing” is a mural which was designed by Joseph H. Cox of the School of Design, Department of Architecture, North Carolina State College now North Carolina State University. He supervised its installation.
The two-story tile and gloss mosaic of 100,000 pieces was constructed into a series of 48 interlocking panels in Raleigh, shipped to the college and mounted to the wall.
“I chose to present certain important elements of the school in a semi-abstract manner favoring a symbolic attitude rather than literal or pictorial,” Cox explained.
“The mosaic tells the North Greenville story: In the upper left-hand corner is the pioneer with his gun, behind him a history of accomplishments and struggles through time. The date, 1892, marks the foundation of the school. Moving along the line to the right, the color lightens indicating the move from ignorance and poverty through educational advantages. Instead of the gun, the man on the right now has a book.
The group of four figures on the left are symbolic of the Christian family life. The two men shaking hands on the right illustrate mutual trust, faith, and friendship.
Since NGC is a liberal arts school, the mural expresses by abstract signs and symbols the major aspects of the curriculum. At the top is a fragment of a Greek column with an arrow leading to a diagram of the atom – symbolic of ancient times to the atomic era – a section of books imply education, a section of a map, the study of the world and geography. The A-B-C suggests the study of literature and language, the heart of culture. A series of mathematical symbols, chemical, and electrical apparatus suggest the study of the sciences. The two hands holding a basketball represent sports and sportsmanship.
At the bottom left, the symbols of food and its preparation and a pair of scissors suggest the study of home economics. To their right, the keyboard illustrates the importance of the study of music to the human family.
The late Dr. M.C. Donnan, president of the college at the time the building was erected, said, “The mosaic is an effort to depict what the school stands for and what it strives to teach.”
Published in the February 1981 North Greenville College Alumni Newsletter.