"He grew up in similar oppressive circumstances in Korea, where he's from.
"When he walked through the slave's cemetery, he was very quiet, and he said, 'This is affecting me. I want to do this project.'"
Fourteen artists submitted portfolios of their work to the senior gift committee.
Four finalists were invited to the campus, and Suh was eventually chosen.
Generating his fee -- $100,000, which will go mostly towards purchasing the vast amount of materials -- has proved to be a challenge but one committee members said they were willing to face.
Suh has exhibited his work in Baltimore, Houston and Venice, Italy. One of his pieces, "Floor," was recently acquired by the Ackland Art Museum.
The professionals who advised the committee implied that the artist probably would be too busy to participate in such an enterprise as the memorial a few years from now.
With that in mind, the seniors went to work. After Singer met with Chancellor James Moeser and Provost Robert Shelton, he was told that the University would match the senior class's fund-raising efforts dollar for dollar.
So far, seniors and alumni have donated $44,000, making the Unsung Founders Memorial the most successful single-year gift campaign ever.
Despite the huge amount of financial support that has arisen, the project is still in its fund-raising stage as plans for the artwork itself develop.
Details of Suh's proposal are not set in stone -- the location of the memorial will play a part in the look of the piece. Singer said he hopes McCorkle Place or somewhere else in the main quad will be chosen as the site for the piece.
"We've kind of nailed down to about three sites," said Stevens. "Ultimately, the grounds committee will choose that."
Singer said that regardless of the memorial's placement, one aspect of the design won't change. The base of the monument will be held up by bronze figures symbolizing the men and women of color who labored in the University's formation.
Suh, who is focusing on projects overseas, won't begin work on the figurines involved in the memorial until June or August.
Stevens said the creation process will take about seven or eight months once the artist gets started.
When the memorial is complete, Singer said, he believes the viewer will become "a part of the piece." He also said that it will be more than just a great work of art and that it will be an educational experience.
"This monument is not about improving this university aesthetically but rather embracing our roots and telling a story," he said.
With the man for the job waiting in the wings and with funds nearing the goal, it will only be a matter of time until this centuries-old story is told.
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