November 12, 2018 | ° F

William the Silent stands tall over U.

Photo by By Ryan Yacco |

William the Silent, a statue that stands in Voorhees Mall on the College Avenue campus, is a monument to the founder of Dutch independence.

William the Silent, Count of Nassau and founder of Dutch independence, has been a welcome guest at the University for almost 80 years.

Standing over 12 feet in height, a bronze statue in the likeness of William has overlooked Voorhees Mall on the College Avenue campus since the Holland Society of New York presented it to the University in 1928.

In addition to commemorating the Dutch roots of Queens College and Rutgers University, William stands for the freedom, tolerance and independence which inspired the founders of the University.

William of Orange gained the sobriquet le Taciturne in the court of King Henry II of France for his discretion while serving as a state hostage to ensure the commencement of a peace accord with the French. He later sacrificed his title, land and fortune in leading the Netherlands' stand against the Duke of Alva and the oppression of catholic Spain.

When Dutch independence was declared in 1581, William became Stadt Holder-Governor of the Republic, declining the title of King. William's dedication to freedom and independence eventually cost him his life - at the hands of a Spanish assassin in 1584.

The statue at the University is a replica of a work by noted Dutch sculptor Lodewyk Royer that was erected in Hague in 1848. The mold for the original statue was preserved in Brussels during World War I.

After the war, the government of the Netherlands granted special permission for one copy to be made, after which the mold was destroyed to prevent further duplication.

The statue was originally purchased by Dr. Fenton B. Turck, a chairman for the HSNY, in the Netherlands in 1926 to ensure that it was not destroyed by the Tammany Catholics.

During the voyage to the United States, however, Turck began to feel guilty about the great cost of the statue. In order to keep his purchase hidden from his wife, he had William moved into the basement of his laboratory in New York City.

During a dinner with University trustee Leonor F. Loree, the topic of the University's Dutch roots came up. Turck decided to pledge the statue to the University, using the Holland Society as a medium.

The Holland Society envisioned a number of other locations for the statue, including New York City, Albany and various spots along the Hudson River - but finally decided the University was the right place for it.

They viewed it as, "particularly fitting that the statue should stand on the grounds of the educational institution founded by descendants of the Netherlands." Dr. Tunis M. Bergen, chairman of the committee of the HSNY that oversaw the statue, said in a prepared statement in 1928, the time of the dedication.

Rev. Everett Zabriskie, domine of the HSNY, became particularly familiar with the statue over the nine years he spent at the New Brunswick Theological Seminary, located directly behind William on the opposite side of Seminary Place.

The Seminary represents the Reformed Church of America, the mother institution of Queen's College in 1766 and seeks to maintain the ideals of freedom and tolerance practiced by William of Orange and its founders alike.

Zabriskie points out that New Amsterdam - the area settled by the Dutch that would eventually become New York - was the true birthplace of the values associated with the American Revolution.

New Amsterdam fostered an environment of diversity through ethnic and religious tolerance - much more than in areas settled by Puritans. These ideals, carried over from William and the Dutch Revolution, paved the way for a free and independent America.

Since coming to the University, William the Silent has gazed steadily over the daily lives of students, as well as serving as a centerpiece for various events such as Dutch-American festivals.

Richard P. McCormick, the University historian, said in the '70s that William's high points came in terms of rallies, such as the anti-war protests and strike rallies of the time.

At one point, William even became the target of a group of Princeton University pranksters - who painted him orange.

Yet, he has remained silent through it all.

But rumor has it that he's become a bit less discreet over the years. Supposedly, when commencement is held on the green in front of William, he'll whistle whenever a virgin walks by - although for some reason, he always seems to stay silent.

For those students less inclined to gossip, the statue remains a relaxing stopover for students between classes.

Jamie Condrack, a Livingston College first year student, is a regular visitor of William.

"It's a nice place to sit and get some sun. I've been sitting here since the first day of classes," Condrack said. "It was hot that day, and I was 15 minutes early. So I sat down, got a tan...and ended up being 10 minutes late."

Rest assured Jamie, your secret's safe with William.

Ryan Yacco

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