Nakashima Peace Altar to Be Dedicated

Columbia will dedicate and consecrate the George Nakashima Peace Altar in St. Paul's Chapel in a ceremony on Wed., Oct. 18, at 4:30 P.M.

The altar, a gift of Professor and Mrs. Wm. Theodore deBary, will commemorate those Columbians who have died in the service of their country.

It will also recognize the contributions of the late noted designer and woodworker George Nakashima to Columbia.

A Japanese-American from Seattle, Wash., he graduated from M.I.T. with an M. Arch in 1930. His work is featured in the Heyman Center for the Humanities at Columbia, the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the United Nations.

After graduation he spent the next 12 years in the practical study of Asian art, architecture and religion in India. Interned during World war II along with other Japanese-Americans in a camp in Idaho, he carried on his artistic work until released in 1945. He then set up his New Hope, Pa., workshop where he did most of his renowned arts and crafts. His furniture in Columbia's Heyman Center represents some of his finest work, and is in a setting that itself represents ecumenical and multicultural disciplines. His first commission at Columbia was the design and furnishing of the Student and Faculty Lounge in Kent in 1962.

The altar is the first step in a celebration of peace, as intended by Nakashima, a noted designer and woodworker. It was completed by the Nakashima Studio, based on designs and material prepared by Nakashima before his death in 1991.

The altar will be installed in the south transept of the Chapel. On the wall behind it bronze plaques will be mounted bearing the names of Columbia's war dead from 20th Century conflicts. Next spring these plaques will be dedicated in a special ceremony in the Chapel.

Nakashima combined the best of American and Japanese cultures in his art, offering an early example of multiculturalism. As a Christian he also engaged in a study of Asian religions and philosophies. His architectural designs and monumental furniture pieces combined elements from several religions and aesthetic traditions.

Speaking at the dedication will be President Rupp, Provost Jonathan Cole, Trustee Emeritus(CK) Edward Costikyan and deBary. Representing the Nakashima family will be his widow, Marion, and their daughter, Mira. An invitation to attend has been extended to Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, who will come if his Senate schedule allows.

The Peace Altar will be consecrated by Christopher Maloney, Columbia's Catholic chaplain, and H. Scott Matheney, acting director of the Earl Hall Center and St. Paul's Chapel.

The ceremony will begin at 4:30 P.M. and be followed by a reception.


Columbia University Record -- October 13, 1995 -- Vol. 21, No. 6