Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Mystery solved!

Today was the annual OHSU Emeritus Luncheon, which honors former faculty members and provides a time for them to socialize as well as catch up on news from the Hill. This year, I was invited to attend and bring along a poster or small exhibit of some kind. I chose to take an oil painting which has been in our storage area for as long as anyone can seem to remember. The painting itself is beautiful, but torn, and the gentleman in the portrait is not identified. No artist signature can be seen on the canvas, which is mounted in an elaborate frame. The painting is clearly pre-1900, but beyond that I have no skills to determine its age. I was hoping that one of the emeriti would have a clue as to the man's identity.

Well, the emeriti are a light-hearted group and I did get a lot of suggestions that the man was, say, some colleague or other of theirs on a bad day (or a good day, or before he shaved his beard). One good suggestion was that perhaps it was Marquam, as in Marquam Hill, of whom I don't think I've ever seen a picture. But no concrete answers. Until....

Mary Ann Lockwood was looking at it and asking about whether there was anything at all on the back indicating any provenance, the artist, the timeframe--anything. No, I assured her, there's nothing on the back. I leaned it down from the wall, she on one side and I on the other, and ... there it was! Like invisible ink, a small pencil marking on the dark, dirty, wooden backing of the portrait suddenly leapt out at her. I couldn't see it at all from my angle, but from a certain angle, in that particular light, you could make out: Wm. Cardwell.

I knew I could count on the emeriti, and there was no more likely candidate than Mary Ann Lockwood, knower of all secrets. As executive assistant to three presidents, Director of Public Relations, and Marquam Hill Steering Committee Liaison, she has been privy to more information about the University than the rest of us combined. She tells some--but not all--in her oral history interview.

Now the question is: who exactly was William Cardwell? Stay tuned...

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