Not a bust, not a statue, not a death mask nor one of the many gargoyles or stone heads that peer down from buildings on St. George campus every day. No, this is a plaster cast of distinguished donor Walter Laidlaw (BA 1896 UC). He and his family, known for their successful lumber business, helped establish University College’s Laidlaw Library in 1964.
The cast was originally modelled in clay by artist Palmo Dolzelli, and served as a template for the stone carving that now graces the Laidlaw wing’s exterior. Today, Laidlaw’s golden visage, the same colour as Tutankhamen’s grandest mask, sits on a specially made shelf in the UC archives alongside the cast of his brother, Robert (BA 1908 UC), and such former U of T luminaries as president Claude Bissell, UC president Moffat St. Andrew Woodside and Board of Governors chairs Col. Eric Phillips and Orval Vaughan. Follow their Easter Island-like stares through the huge archives windows and you realize that they are overlooking a campus landscape that hasn’t changed for decades. The old Devonshire House residence (now the Munk Centre) still stands, as does Hart House, Trinity and Wycliffe colleges – all forming a semicircle around the green back campus where the Laidlaw brothers would have stood and gazed at their beloved library and alma mater.