Initially conceived in 1963 as a tribute to the memory of President John F. Kennedy, the Spirit of Life® sculpture at the medical center entrance has served as the symbol of City of Hope for more than four decades.
Robert I. Russin, an internationally renowned sculptor and professor of art at the University of Wyoming, was originally commissioned to create a bas relief for the medical center’s exterior. A bas relief is a sculpture technique in which a design is carved from a flat surface so that it projects from the background panel. The idea evolved into creating a free-standing sculpture that would reflect the spirit and essence of City of Hope.
Russin worked on the sculpture and fountain for three years, at one point taking a leave of absence from his academic position to move with his family to Monrovia, Calif., so he could work full-time on the piece. The final result was a nine-foot bronze statue perched on three marble tiers that were quarried and cut in Italy. The assembly was accentuated with water jets and centered in a 30-foot circular reflecting pool.
Installed in April 1967, the piece was dedicated on July 2, drawing more than 700 guests to the ceremony. Speakers included author Irving Stone, recognized for his biographical novels of historic figures, and noted actor/producer Carl Reiner, best known for his part in the iconic television series “The Dick Van Dyke Show.” The Spirit of Life became the new symbol for City of Hope, conveying the concepts of optimism and humanitarian service.
COURTESY CITY OF HOPE ARCHIVES