This article is re-printed from the CUAA May 2013 Newsletter.
It was jointly researched by Rocco Cetera CE’99, Mary Lynch ChE’82, and Carol Soloman, Acting Library Director at The Cooper Union.
Oscar Roty, a well-known Viennese medalist, was commissioned to design a new graduation medal by Sarah Amelia Hewitt, the daughter of Peter Cooper, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the school’s founding in 1909. Roty made the first issue of these medallions in 1907, and they were distributed in 1909 by Mrs. Sarah Amelia Hewitt to the 111 graduates in Technical Science, General Science and Chemistry that year.
The front of the medallion has a life-like portrait of Peter Cooper as he appeared toward the end of his career which corresponds to when he began the school. The motto: En Labore Ouies is written beneath Peter’s portrait. Across the top of the medal are the scriptural words: Whatsoever Things Are True. On the reverse side of the medal there is a portrait of Minerva, the goddess of wisdom in the forefront, and an image of the foundation building in the background. The full inscription is to honor Peter Cooper, whose life was devoted to the public welfare and the education of all. First half-century of the cooper union 1859-1909. Sarah Amelia Hewitt with love and reverence for her father the founder.
At the May 1909 Board of Trustees meeting, the trustees passed a resolution resolving to award replicas of the Roty Medallion be presented with diplomas at the annual commencement exercises to all graduates of the Day School of Science, the Night School of Science and the post graduate course of the Night School of Chemistry. We believe that The Cooper Union ceased giving the medals after 1962 for financial reasons.
In 1963, financial problems led to the Cooper Union Museum for the Arts of Decoration being “temporarily” closed (with much outcry from its devotees) due to lack of funding. The Museum never truly re-opened, and was spun off in the late 1960s to become part of the Smithsonian (the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum). The earlier version of the medal that was awarded up to 1908 will be discussed in the 2013 June Newsletter.