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“…Unto Caesar…Unto God…” A Study of St. Thomas More

Hello, my name is Seth Sherman. I am a member of the Art at Thomas More initiative. This initiative sheds light on the permanent collection of artwork and artifacts at Thomas More University. Sculptor Bernie Schmidt, a class of 1958 alumnus and former faculty member at Thomas More, has two pieces displayed on campus. In addition to being an educator, Mr. Schmidt was a prolific artist during his lifetime and his artwork is displayed both locally and nationally. The piece we feature today is called “…Unto Caesar…Unto God” This study of St. Thomas More is located just outside the Science and Benedictine Library buildings. 

It was commissioned in 2003 by Robert and Loraine Brink, both members of the class of ’51. They were avid supporters of the University during their lifetimes. First we’ll hear from their daughter Annette Brink, Thomas More class of 1977, telling us of their involvement and then former Thomas More President Monsignor Cleves will explain the symbolism behind the piece

Annette Brink ’77: My parents were big supporters of Thomas More. They both graduated in 1951, I believe, from Villa Madonna College. My father always credited his success in life, especially in his business life to his education at Villa Madonna. I did not meet Bernie personally, although he did teach art at Thomas More. We did go see one of Bernie’s sculptures, it’s the sculpture of D’Artagnan on Xavier University’s campus. Bernie kept everything very secretive.

Msgr. William Cleves: In the play “A Man for All Seasons,” Thomas More tells Richard Rich, who’s the conniving weasel that turned him in. He asked him a question, he says, “You know, Jesus said, ‘It does not profit a man to gain the whole world,’ to give his soul for the whole world, but you’re giving your soul for Wales?” Richard Rich was made chancellor of Wales in reward for turning Thomas More in. What Bernie did was, that statue is of Thomas More in the moment of revelation, when he finally realized what it is going to cost him to stay true to himself. That huge coin on his lap represents what Richard Rich gave in to, namely the worldly wealth. And if you look closely, More has a kind of smirk on his face as if he suddenly realizes, yeah I’m going to be giving up all this. This is what God is calling me to do. Bernie and I talked about it a lot and we talked about Thomas More a lot. I gave Bernie some books to read, we invited him to the college – there was a French priest, that was back when I was president. He was the editor of this Thomas More magazine. It was a journal devoted to Thomas More, Bernie was at that lecture, he was at other lectures, he and I sat down for lunch a couple times just to talk about this whole thing. The statue represents More weighing the cost of being true to himself. The outsized coin of course represents how big a role money can play in the lives of some people. 

Annette Brink ’77: I think in today’s society, especially with young people, the more symbolic adaptation of Thomas More is probably more thought provoking than a realistic statue would have been.

To hear the Art@ThomasMore episode which features the other piece of sculpture by Bernie Schmidt ’58, visit tmuky.us/goodshepherd.

To read a remembrance honoring his life which appeared in Moreover after his passing in 2013, visit tmuky.us/schmidt.