With towering bronze angels as a backdrop, Jacob's Dream, an almost 40-foot bronze sculpture, was dedicated to Abilene Christian University in honor of Grace L. Woodward for her gift of $26.5 million to the university.
Several hundred people gathered Saturday afternoon to witness the intermingling of three dreams: the dream of a man named Jacob, from so long ago; the dream of a woman named Grace; and the dream of an artist named Jack, said Dr. Royce Money, ACU president.
"I expected something absolutely great," said Bob Woodward, son of the late Grace Woodward. "Instead, it was thrice better. I can't put it into words."
The sculpture, which features four angels ascending and descending a ladder that reaches toward heaven, illustrates the biblical account of Jacob's dream from Genesis 28. Surrounding the sculpture is an area that includes a baptismal pool, approximately 30 weathered stones for seating, and many hidden surprises.
"I wanted this piece to be interactive for all those who came to see it," said Jack Maxwell, artist and chair of ACU's Department of Art and Design. "My hope is for this to be a place of prayer and meditation."
Stones surrounding this inspirational area are engraved with a single word, or several words from scripture. Each path around the sculpture is linked together by different words. Thus the outcome is a different scripture depending on the direction you enter, explained Maxwell.
"There are not a whole lot of superlatives in the Bible, to begin with." said Woodward, "It seems to me that he (Jack) reached down and picked out the parts that we all need, as well as the ones we need to see and hear. There’s nothing in there wasted."
During the dedication, Money acknowledged the Woodwards for Grace's gift, Jack Maxwell for his breathtaking creation, the donors for their support of this project, and all of the contractors and those who helped with this undertaking.
Maxwell's walk to the podium was filled with thunderous applaud. "This really isn't about me. It's about God, and what God wants," explained Maxwell. "And when God wants something, it always happens. And surprisingly he uses ordinary people weak and flawed people like you and me to accomplish what he desires. I do have talents which I believe God has instilled in me. But I don't believe that he gave me the degree of talent to produce what you see behind me. I am amazed as well."
When explaining where he got the idea for Jacob's Dream, Maxwell said he believes the idea came from the Creator of all things, "the greatest artist who was never born, and has always lived."
Maxwell expressed his appreciation to all who helped him with this task: the stone masons, the landscapers, the cement workers, his wife, his students, administrators and all others who helped with the process. He thanked those who financially gave for something that's not functional, but for the creation of a space to honor God.
"I'd also like to thank Grace Woodward, a woman I never met, but admire. She knew what was important in this world," said Maxwell. "Her financial gift did not fund this project but it inspired others to do so."
When Woodward stepped up to the podium unexpectedly during the ceremony, he praised the work of his mother. "My mother thought the only difference between her and the widow with two mites was the amount given." Later Woodward said that his mother thought she never gave enough.