A life-size sculpture of Eudora Welty sitting on a bench holding a copy of her Pulitzer Prize winning 1973 novel, The Optimist’s Daughter, was dedicated Nov. 13 on the Millsaps College campus.
The sculpture was commissioned by two Millsaps College alumni, created by an alumnus and given in honor of Dr. Suzanne Marrs, emerita professor of English at Millsaps and a Welty scholar.
“A member of the Millsaps Board of Trustees, an adjunct faculty member and honorary degree recipient, Miss Welty was a frequent presence on the Millsaps campus, just a few blocks from her residence,” Dr. Robert W. Pearigen, president of Millsaps College, said during the dedication. “Countless visiting writers such as Ann Patchett, Elizabeth Spencer, Ralph Eubanks, Richard Ford, to name just a few recent visitors, all speak of Miss Welty’s profound influence on their work and her spirit that they feel when they’re here on campus.”
Tim and Jean Medley, both of whom attended Millsaps and are longtime supporters of the college, funded the sculpture that is located in the Nicholson Garden on the north side of the Christian Center.
The Medleys commissioned Ben Watts, a 1980 graduate of Millsaps who created the John Wesley sculpture that overlooks the Bowl, to produce the Welty sculpture.
“The first person that comes to anyone’s mind if you have a question about Eudora or her story is Suzanne Marrs,” Mary Alice Welty White, a niece of Welty, said during the dedication. “Eudora’s stories and her novels became Suzanne’s life’s work, but, more than that, Suzanne and Eudora became very good friends.”
Marrs, a professor at Millsaps for 27 years, said it is fitting that Welty is honored in sculpture on campus.
“I am deeply grateful if my scholarship and teaching have benevolently brought Welty’s fiction into the lives of those who might not otherwise have encountered it and if my work has enhanced the understanding and pleasure with which Welty is read,” Marrs said.