Nearly two years have passed since that tragic night in April when sophomore Rex Chao was shot and killed by student Robert Harwood on a dirt path near the MSE Library. Had he lived, Chao, a talented violinist and avid Young Republican, would now be preparing to graduate, sending out résumés and filling out applications for graduate school, as his friends are doing.
Those who were closest to Chao want to make sure his memory lives on at Hopkins, even after they leave campus in May. After months of tossing around ideas, they've come up with a fitting tribute that's being warmly embraced by university administrators, faculty, students, and Chao's family: a bronze sculpture, in Chao's image, of a seated violinist at play.
"Music was the key to Rex's soul," explains Suzanne Hubbard '98, who was Chao's girlfriend, and with him at the time of the shooting. "If you ever watched Rex play, nothing else existed. It was just him and the violin. It was amazing to watch." She and Amy Claire Brusch '98 are heading a committee of students that is raising $60,000 to fund the sculpture and its installation. Their plan is to have the sculpture make its home inside the campus's new Performing Arts Center, currently scheduled for completion in the year 2000. They've chosen Maine sculptor Jud Hartmann (whose stunning rendering of lacrosse-playing American Indians sits outside the Lacrosse Hall of Fame, adjacent to campus) to undertake the project.
In December, the two young women stopped by the Magazine's offices to talk about their fundraising efforts, and Rex. They were light-hearted and upbeat in recalling the friend they'd lost, even a little irreverent. "My first memory of Rex was of him snoring during class," recalled Hubbard, laughing. "Or, he'd get out the New York Times and read it right in the middle of a lecture." Added Brusch, "Class just wasn't his thing." Chao was nevertheless a stellar student and voracious reader, they said, who inspired his classmates and had a way with his professors. "It irked me to no end," said Hubbard, "that he always managed to get a two-week extension on his papers." While Brusch and Hubbard admit to feeling a bit daunted by their fundraising efforts, they've been heartened by the response they've received so far. One big boost has come from former U.S. Rep. Susan Molinari, R-N.Y., for whom Chao interned his sophomore year. She has pledged her remaining campaign chest to the project.
Last summer Hubbard visited sculptor Hartmann in his Blue Hill,
Maine, studio. She was struck by the way he was able to capture
the very essence of the people he sculpted. "You can see into
their souls," she said. Before leaving, she left behind a tape of
Chao playing a Mendelssohn violin concerto. She said she hopes it
will help inspire Hartmann to create "something beautiful that
will help people remember Rex for his life and talents, instead
of his death."
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