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By Gerry Boyle '78
A wet spring snow falls on the campus of Colgate University in Hamilton, N.Y. In front of the administration building, a stately stone Victorian, two people wait. A security guard pulls up, unlocks the front door and follows as the pair makes its way through the darkened foyer and up the staircase to the third-floor office of Rebecca Chopp, Colgate's president.
Lights go on.
One of the pair, Paul Schupf, a 60-ish man in sweatpants and Asics running shoes, strides into the room and turns. On the wall to the right is a series of black-and-white abstract etchings, shapes that soar toward the ceiling like buttes toward a desert sky. This is Richard Serra's suite, WM--WM-V. On another wall is Weight and Measure, an etching (with aquatint) derived from a sculpture Serra did for the Tate Museum in London. Chopp selected it from Schupf's voluminous collection of Serra's works. Her office has become one of the stops on the Schupf-Serra tour, which has been taken by visitors from as far away as Germany.
"You can tell how he started out with an almost-literal description of the works," Schupf said as the security guard waited patiently. "It's almost like a Grateful Dead jam. He just jammed. It's extraordinary."
Welcome to the world of Paul Schupf, where his passions--Serra and contemporary art, the Grateful Dead and Bob Dylan, history and liberal arts colleges--intersect in extraordinary ways.
This is the Schupf whose name appears on the Colby museum's Paul J. Schupf Wing for the Art of Alex Katz, which houses major works, many of them donated by Schupf. He is the Schupf of the museum's Schupf Sculpture Court, the setting for Serra's monumental steel-block sculpture 4-5-6.
This also is the Schupf of the Paul J. Schupf Scientific Computing Center at the Computational Chemistry Laboratory at Colby and the "S" in what is known at Colby as AMS-- the Anthony-Mitchell-Schupf residence hall.
His is a prominent, if not unprecedented, place in Colby's roster of benefactors, most of whom are Colby alumni, spouses, parents or some combination of the three.
Not Schupf. A Colgate alumnus, he had no ties to Colby prior to his first visit in 1985. In fact, he had only vague knowledge of the College before it came under the million-candlepower spotlight that Schupf focuses on any of his interests. "I didn't seek out Colby," he said. "It just kind of happened."
© Colby College Colby Magazine Summer 2003 firstname.lastname@example.org