Home>> Monuments and Memorials>>FSU History Through Its Seals
fsu seals
westcott fountain
powell green
legacy fountain
heritage tower
distinguised professors
honor socieites

Historic School Seals
by Victor Pidermann

The Westcott Fountain Historic School Seals monument, located along the southern edge of Westcott Plaza, occupies a space both prominent yet obscure on the FSU campus.  However, to those who find it, a window to the past emerges in a small tribute to the evolution of the school’s seal from its days as the Florida Seminary West of the Suwannee onward.  Nestled alongside a small walkway and new metallic benches sits several Georgia black granite plaques that are often hidden in the camouflage of shrubs, mulch, and the large flag poles in front of the Westcott building. Three of the plaques, all of equal size, show the school seals of the West Florida Seminary, the Florida State College, and the Florida State College for Women. The final plaque shows a smaller depiction of the modern Florida State University seal.  Found beneath each historic school seal depiction can be found a small description detailing the school to which the seal belonged to, as well as some information about the symbolism found on the seal.

The symbolism of each seal portrays the message of each school and its vision of the future. The seal of the West Florida Seminary, the first school on campus, existing from 1851 to 1901, displays the owl, which stood for wisdom, being the primary ideal to be upheld by a co-educational institution.  The next seal, belonging to the Florida State College, which existed from 1901 to 1905, kept the owl, now representing knowledge, in central position on the seal.  It is flanked by a torch on both sides, which is meant to represent the college’s role as an illuminator of knowledge.  west florida seminary seal

florida state college for women seal Following this representation is the seal of the Florida Female College, later renamed to the Florida State College for Women, existing from 1905 to 1947, which shows the seal dropping the image of the owl and replacing it with a third torch. The motto of the College, Vires, Artes, Mores, is also added; these Latin phrases, represented by the three torches, are to Show the College’s goals in preparing the female students physically, mentally, and morally.  With these accomplished, the students could become a Femina Perfecta, the complete women. 

The last seal, belonging to the current Florida State University since 1947, is essentially the same as the Florida State College for Women, except with altered meanings.  The first torch represents the strengths, physically, morally, and intellectually of the students.  The second represents the belief that knowledge is more than just mere skills and that it has a deep appreciation for beauty.  The last torch represents the profound customs, character, and traditions of the university.  Collectively, the torches now represent the passing on of knowledge.

This fine display also highlights the desire of students at FSU to pass on the pride and history of the university. The monument was developed as the school gift from the Senior Class of 2000; the purpose was to serve as way for the out-going class to teach others about FSU’s past.  The funds were collected by the Senior Class Council of 2000, a part of the Student Government Association, which in turn contracted the Florida State University Master Craftsmen department to actually construct the monument as part of their continual campus beautification projects.  The seals were worked on through the team-efforts of Chris Ellis, Jennifer Trapp, and Robert Bischoff, all of whom are FSU Master Craftsmen.

While the seals may be hidden from plain view, the sense of historical space the plaques emit are by no means elusive.  With its location being further back from the main street and being under the tall trees of the plaza, the monument is found to be in a relatively quiet and peaceful spot on campus.  When one stands, or sits near enough, to read the inscriptions of the history of the university and its predecessors’ seals, one is instantly taken back to a time when the actual ground on which the monument stands on was still the site for Florida education going back to the 1850s.  By seeing College Avenue and the Downtown skyline from the spot, one ponders by-gone periods of historic buildings and old students who left their mark on the campus’ land.  To the modern student, this monument allows them to take a moment to think back to the history of the school they attend, and to perhaps appreciate and better understand that institution.

Photographs by Victor Pidermann

© Jennifer Koslow | 453 Bellamy Building | Tallahassee FL 32306-2200
History Department | Arts & Sciences | Florida State University