A death masque was taken on April 26, 1934 of LeBaron Russell Briggs (1855-1934) by the sculptor Frederick Warren Allen. “He was an important man!” remembers the eldest Allen daughter. A big committee had been formed at Harvard College to choose an artist to create a likeness of their beloved Dean and representatives of the committee were coming to their home in Concord to talk with their father! The five children were instructed to go upstairs and wait quietly until the guests had left. This was an important commission, not only because of the man to be memorialized, but also because during the Great Depression, artists had trouble earning a living. This would help their circumstances greatly. So there was great celebration when the children were told the news that their father had been selected to do a large marble portrait bust. A great honor! Briggs was a Professor, the first Dean of Students at Harvard College, Dean of the Faculty, and President of Radcliffe College. A liberty ship and a hall at Harvard were both named after him.
His importance as Dean was that his position, first as Dean of Men and then dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, was the first where a person was appointed to advise students and faculty on both academic and personal affairs. It was the beginning of what is now called Student Affairs. “Admired by generations of students for his kindness and benevolent guidance, LBRB had a profound influence on his students. They placed him among the very great teachers of English and the classics,” reports the Radcliffe College Archives.
His importance to women is that, under his watch, Radcliffe College grew into a respected educational institution with a degree for women equivalent to Harvard and won admission for women to the PhD program in medical science at Harvard Medical School.
The magnificent 24 inch high marble portrait bust of LeBaron Russell Briggs is part of the Fogg Museum‘s grand Portrait Collection in University Hall at Harvard University, one of 15 marble busts around the perimeter of the room. Radcliffe College ordered a copy cast in bronze in 1937.
In her Scribble Book, Allen’s wife Agnes wrote in February 1, 1936, “Fred has just practically finished the Dean Briggs bust for Harvard, and it is a beautiful piece of work received with great enthusiasm by those in charge.” And so it stands with dignity in the great hall at Harvard, a fitting tribute to a great educator, a wise advisor and a beloved man.