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Grant Statue Dedication Ceremony

For the first time since 1983, there is a new face on the Plain. On Thursday, April 25, 2019, West Point unveiled a statue of Ulysses S. Grant, Class of 1843, and the 18th President of the United States. Dozens of distinguished visitors, graduates, cadets, faculty, staff and tourists were on hand to witness the historic occasion. [SEE PHOTOS]

In 2016, Representative Brad Wenstrup, U.S. Representative from Ohio’s 2nd Congressional District and a member of the Committee on Armed Services for the 114th Congress, suggested in the National Defense Authorization Act FY 2017 that West Point erect a statue of Grant, whose Georgetown, OH hometown is part of Wenstrup’s district.

The act states: “The committee notes that the Plain at the United States Military Academy contains statues of several famous West Point graduates, including Douglas MacArthur (Class of 1903), George Patton (Class of 1909), and Dwight Eisenhower (Class of 1915), but does not include a statue of another consequential graduate, Ulysses S. Grant (Class of 1843). The committee therefore encourages the Secretary of the Army to consider placing a statue of Ulysses S. Grant at West Point in time for the sesquicentennial of his inauguration as the 18th President of the United States.”

Grant was actually inaugurated on March 4, 1869, but West Point held the unveiling in April in order to kick off “Commitment to Service” week, a series of events (such as Projects Day and the yearling Inspiration to Serve cemetery tour) highlighting the theme of a lifetime of selfless service to the nation, to the community, and to others. “It’s appropriate we begin this week with today’s ceremony,” said LTG Daryl Williams ’83, USMA Superintendent, “not only because of whom we are honoring, a leader who personified duty and service, but also because of the couple who made this wonderful addition to the Plain possible.”

The Grant Statue was funded through a “generous donation” from the Honorable Robert A. McDonald ’75, former Chairman, President and CEO of The Procter & Gamble Company and 8th U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and his wife, Diane. Members of the West Point Association of Graduate’s Dwight D. Eisenhower Lifetime Giving Society, which recognizes giving in excess of $5 million, and the Five-Star Cullum Society, for planned estate gifts, Bob and Diane are also the founders of the annual McDonald Conference for Leaders of Character at West Point, which brings together top undergraduate students and leaders from diverse backgrounds to bolster leadership skills, foster critical thinking and collaboration, and develop potential strategies for addressing imperative global issues.

“We are thrilled to be able to help bring to life this incredible tribute to President Grant’s legacy of leadership,” said Secretary McDonald, addressing the crowd before the unveiling. “As a soldier and a leader deserving acclaim, today he stands proud among those who have also spent a lifetime serving the nation: President General Washington, Eisenhower, MacArthur—this is where Grant belongs.”

“From the moment we show up as new cadets for Beast Barracks, they make us learn about all the statues on the Plain and their significance,” said CDT Joseph Mannino ’19, USCC Brigade Command Sergeant Major. “It’s kind of hard for cadets not to notice these statues as they pass by; they are very inspiring figures.”

The Grant Statue is a 1,200-pound, 1.25-times-life-size bronze portrait standing 7 feet 6 inches high and positioned on a 4-foot-6-inch granite pedestal. It was sculpted by Paula Slater, who is internationally recognized for her many intricately detailed public bronze monuments and memorials, two of which have been designated State Landmark Monuments. Slater, a self-professed “detail nut,” specializes in portrait sculpture and spent a great deal of time perfecting the face seen on the Grant Statue. “I wanted to capture that look of his humanity, his humility, and his anguish of having to make those life-and-death decisions, and tried to bring that alive in his expression,” Slater said.

In his remarks before the unveiling, LTG Williams said, “Today, when we think of the qualities and the traits required to effectively and successfully lead in the crucible of ground combat, we think of determination, we think of grit, we think of excellence, the ability to overcome adversity, the will to win, humility, and most importantly integrity and character—General Ulysses Simpson Grant personified all of these qualities and many more.”

With the dedication of the Grant Statue, the number of major gift-funded buildings and monuments delivered by the West Point Association of Graduates, which is also celebrating its sesquicentennial in 2019, to the United States Military Academy now exceeds 50. “I believe the role of the members of the Long Gray Line is to give back and to support the cadets who come after us in order to ensure that this fine institution continues to thrive,” said McDonald. Happy 150th Anniversary AOG and welcome home President and General Ulysses S. Grant!