A Clarkson Mosaic - page 241

William G. Van Note came to Clarkson from North Carolina State College at Raleigh
where he had been director of engineering research and professor of metallurgy. Born on March
9, 1909, in Atlantic Highlands, N.J., he graduated from RPI in 1929, and received his master's
degree from the University of Vermont in 1933. He assumed a teaching position at North
Carolina in 1934, and in 1936 was promoted to assistant professor. Following his PhD degree
from Penn State, he was promoted to associate professor. A subsequent promotion in 1944
elevated him to full professor of metallurgy. Between 1944 and 1946 he had been assistant
director of the College's experimental station. Later in 1946, he was appointed as director of the
Department of Engineering Research.
In 1948-49 he was chairman for research for the American Society for Engineering
Education, and also chairman of the engineering research for the Association of Land-Grant
Colleges and Universities, Engineering Division. He also became a member of Sigma Xi, Phi
Lambda Upsilon [chemistry honor society], and ASM, AIMEE, and ASEE.
Van Note's inauguration on November 4 was attended by two world-famous dignitaries:
Joseph E. Davies, former ambassador to Moscow; and James H. Doolittle of Snell Oil, and
formerly a general in the Army Air Force, and the man who led the first air raid on Tokyo in
1942 after war had been declared in December 1941.
During World War II, Mrs. Van Note's brother, Rev. Clark V. Polling, was one of the
four chaplains-a Catholic priest, two Protestant ministers, and a Jewish rabbi-who gave up their
life preservers so that others might survive a sinking ship, the S.S. Dorchester.
Stuart Portrait.
Called the "most famous picture in American art," an original Gilbert Stuart
portrait of George Washington was given to Clarkson by Robert L. Clarkson during National
Engineers' Week in February 1951. This famous Madison-Aspinwall Athenaeum-type portrait
was presented to the College by Mr. Clarkson in memory of his son, Peter, who had died the
previous August. In accepting the portrait, President Jess Davis stated:
The painting will be particularly appropriate for hanging in the college Student Center inasmuch as George
Washington has been called `our first engineer.'
Stuart, who lived from 1755 to 1828, painted three different portraits of Washington
from life. The first sitting produced the "Vaughan" or "Gibbs-Channing" portrait of the right
side of Washington's face with which the artist was never satisfied. The Athenaeum head, of
which the Clarkson painting is a replica painted by Stuart, resulted from a second or third
sitting around 1796. It portrays the left side of the face. The third portrait of Washington by
Stuart, the "Lord Landsdowne," is a full-length portrait.
The original Athenaeum portrait remained the artist's property until his death, when his
destitute widow sold it to the Boston Athenaeum, from which it took its name. It now hangs in
the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Stuart painted more than 100 replicas of his three original
portraits. The majority were of this Athenaeum type.
The Clarkson portrait was painted by Stuart for President James Madison, and was
acquired from his estate by William Aspinwall of New York, one of the earliest and most
celebrated of American art collectors. In his notes on the portraits of Washington compiled for
exhibition for the Centennial Celebration of Washington's Inauguration in 1889, the late
Charles Henry Hart, an authority on Stuart, singled out this Madison-Aspinwall replica as the
most representative of the Stuart Athenaeum type; he listed it as number 17 of the Athenaeum
types. Mark Twain once said:
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