It stands between Morey and Lattimore Halls, with a stance suggesting strength and confidence.
Since it was erected during 2009’s Meliora Weekend, George Eastman’s statue has donned many hats, often placed on his signature hat by students in support of various causes.
But, throughout his life in Rochester, he donned plenty more.
Born in 1854 in Waterville, New York, Eastman and his family relocated to Rochester when he was five.
Shortly after, tragedy struck with the death of his father in 1862 and his sister in 1870. To support his family after these losses, Eastman dropped out of school and started working various jobs to help pay expenses.
After working as a messenger boy and, later, as an office boy, he earned the title of junior clerk at Rochester Savings Bank. It was there that he became interested in photography and started experimenting at night with different types of photographic plates. With the help of businessman Henry A. Strong’s investments, George Eastman founded the Eastman Kodak Company, the originator of such cultural gemstones as the “Kodak Moment.” .
During his lifetime, Eastman also founded the eponymous school of music downtown, helped start UR’s School of Medicine and Dentistry, and donated over $100 million to various causes.
And it shows. At the inauguration of Eastman’s statue in 2009, President Joel Seligman said, “George Eastman’s legacy—the Eastman School, Eastman Theatre, the School of Medicine and Dentistry—played a major role in shaping the University of Rochester.”
His legacy continues not only through the statue, but also through George Eastman Day, started a year after the statue was erected. Similar to Wilson Day at the University of Rochester, George Eastman Day is a day of service for incoming Eastman students.
Many alumni of the University are part of the George Eastman Circle, which was established in 2007. It was a member of this circle who decided that the University was missing a statue of George Eastman on its campus.
Laurence Bloch ‘75, a trustee since 1998, and his wife, Cindy, gave this statue as a gift to the University. They enlisted the help of sculptor Marc Mellon, once a student at the University, to create the statue.
The duo has also donated to the University in the form of the Larry & Cindy Bloch Fitness Center in the Goergen Athletic Center.
After talking to Director of Facilities Jeff Foster, it’s clear that the decoration of the statue is completely up to the students. There is no process that Facilities takes part in with “dressing” or “undressing” Eastman, though twice a year, Eastman does get washed and waxed.
Despite Facilities’ hands-off approach to Eastman’s garb, Foster remembers the outfit he liked the most.
“My favorite was a few years ago when he was dressed in a leopard print bikini,” he said. “Even at his age, he still rocks swimwear.”