Several representatives of Bethune-Cookman University were in Italy over the weekend to celebrate university founder Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune in honor of her birthday. Learn why the statues were made and are heading to Florida in the article from Andreas Butler at the Daytona Times below.

A marble statue, left, will be housed in Statuary Hall. The bronze statue will be a permanent fixture in Daytona Beach.

July 10 was a banner day for Bethune-Cookman University and Daytona Beach.

Statues of Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, founder of the university, were officially unveiled on July 10 in Pietrasanta, Italy. Dr. Bethune was born on July 10, 1875. 

Nilda Maria Comas, a renowned sculptor there, created two statues of Dr. Bethune – a marble one that will eventually be housed at the National Statuary Hall in the United States Capitol  in Washington, D.C. and a bronze statue that will be permanently erected in Daytona Beach.

Dr. Hiram Powell, interim president of B-CU, is in Italy along with other university supporters, including National Alumni Association President Johnny McCray, Jr., Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry and Nancy Lohman, president of the Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Statuary Board.

“What an incredible opportunity to kick off a sustained celebration leading to our esteemed founder’s installation in Statuary Hall in Washington D.C. There is no one more deserving than Dr. Bethune, who gave her entire life in service to the betterment of all mankind,” Powell told the Daytona Times via text.

‘Beautifully symbolic’

In 2018, Dr. Bethune was chosen to represent Florida in Statuary Hall.

Money for the statue was raised through the Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Statuary Project, Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Statuary Fund, Inc., Daytona Beach Community Foundation, community donors and businesses.

“Years ago, Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune worked tirelessly uniting people within our community to further opportunities for African Americans and women and continues to unite people,” said Lohman via text from Italy.

“The statue of Dr. Bethune is stunning and beautifully symbolic. We are so proud to experience living history,” Lohman added. “Dr. Bethune was not only an educator and founder of Bethune-Cookman University, she was a trailblazer for civil rights and women’s rights.”

The July 10 ceremonies in Italy include a blessing of the marble statue at noon (6 a.m. EST) and a blessing of the bronze statue at 6:30 p.m. (12:30 p.m. EST). The ceremonies can be viewed on the Facebook page of the Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Statuary Project.

Pictured in Italy for the ceremonies: Johnny McCray, president of B-CU’s National Alumni Association; Nancy Lohman, president of the Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Statuary Board; sculptor Nilda Maria Comas; and Dr. Hiram Powell, B-CU’s interim president.

Locations of statues

The marble statue will make its way to Daytona Beach and be displayed at Daytona State College’s News-Journal Center located at 221 North Beach St. 

In February 2022, the statue will go to Washington, D.C. to its home at Statuary Hall where Bethune will be the first African American to represent a state.

A smaller bronze statue will eventually be sent to Daytona Beach. It will be located outside of the Brown & Brown Insurance building at the corner of Beach Street and Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Boulevard.

McCray reflected Wednesday about the July 10 ceremonies and Dr. Bethune’s legacy.

“I am both humbled and proud to be here in Pietrasanta, Italy for the blessing of the statue of a woman who was a visionary, educator and one of the foremost significant figures of the early modern day Civil Rights Movement,” he said.

“As I stand here today rep- resenting Bethune-Cookman University’s more than 20,000 graduates,  we are all grateful, direct beneficiaries of Dr. Bethune’s legacy.”