It was the vision of Samuel Valentine Cole to make Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts a four-year college from a a seminary for women, and thus he became one of the most important figures in its history. Noticed by Mrs. Wheaton when still a minister, she appointed him as a trustee in 1893. He worked tirelessly on transforming the institution until he reached his goal in 1912. During that time he graduated from the Board to the position of President all the while making improvements in the curriculum and quality of the faculty. His most noticeable achievement was the beautiful campus plan designed by Ralph Adams Cram, a famous ecclesiastical and college architect. The prize-winning Georgian Revival chapel stood at the center of the campus in the same way that New England towns were designed with a church on a green, but it was also the center of this spiritual community of women who visited it daily for morning services. Built in 1917, it became the place for all services and celebrations as well as lectures, concerts, convocations and ceremonies. Frederick Warren Allen had a professional association with Cram for whom he created the tympanum over the West portal of the Church of the Advent. Cram was designer of the Lady Chapel’s gothic interior. He may also have known him through the famous architect Guy Lowell who had commissioned Allen to create and execute the decorative sculptures on the Supreme Court in Manhattan and for whom he was also given part of the work for his Evans Wing of the MFA in Boston.
When the Cole Memorial Chapel was dedicated on October 16, 1926 after the death in 1925 of Dr. Cole, a memorial plaque was placed inside the nave, honoring this great man. Frederick Warren Allen carved the memorial.
Inside the chapel two years later William Isaac Cole, the older brother of S.V.Cole placed a lovely memorial to Samuel’s beloved first wife Annie Talbot Cole who had died in 1906. The portrait relief, although carved from white marble is surprisingly warm and alive, turned toward the sanctuary ever so slightly so that the sun, streaming in from the side window, makes a shadow of her nose. The details of her lips, eyes and hair make her feel as if you could have known her and spoken to her right there. The twenty-inch-round relief is mounted on the same dark gray blue stone from which her husband’s memorial plaque is carved. The lettering on each is coordinated in style.
In the library is an equally lively portrait bust of William Isaac Cole himself (1859-1935), modeled in clay and cast in bronze in 1927. Seemingly of good humor, there is a sly smile on his face and he looks upward with confidence. The center part of hair on top of his head disguises the bald head behind. The details of the face are natural with uncombed mustache, curling eyebrow and rough chin and the honest and realistic details in the skin of the distinguished older man. It was William who worked with Frederick Allen to create these three works of art, fitting tributes to an important family in higher education.