Portrait of a Soldier exhibit comes to Saint Viator High School
The hallways leading to Querbes Hall at Saint Viator High School in Arlington Heights are about to become a haunting reminder of the cost of freedom.
One year after the 20th anniversary of 9/11, a traveling exhibit of hand-sketched portraits of the men and women from Illinois who have died in the war on terror, remains as powerful as ever.
Portrait of a Soldier has traveled the state, and last year drew crowds to the Arlington Heights Memorial Library, Hersey and Elk Grove high schools.
Now, the panels containing approximately 330 portraits -- including more than 80 from Northern Illinois -- are coming to Saint Viator High School and will be on display Monday through Friday, Sept. 26-30.
Portrait of a Soldier began in 2004 as a collection of hand drawn portraits, in pencil and charcoal, by artist Cameron Schilling, who was an intern at the time for former Gov. Pat Quinn. Additional portraits were added by father and daughter artists Donald and Kiana Jeremiah.
Saint Viator students will experience the exhibit, not only as they walk to the cafeteria for lunch, but in multiple academic settings.
Every social studies class will visit the exhibit, with students writing a reflection afterward. Those in Introduction to the Visual Arts will create digital portraits of a family member or loved one who served in the military.
Students involved in Campus Ministry will share daily prayers for members of the military with the school community, while the Querbes Scholars will co-sponsor a panel, open to the public, at 3 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 29, with Saint Viator alumni veterans and Gold Star families.
"In Social Studies, this is an opportunity for students to see and understand the history around them, and it's very real impact on their community and their present," said Maureen Martin, Social Studies department chair.
"This becomes tangible history that moves beyond just a named conflict or battle, and allows students to acknowledge the individuals and their sacrifices, as they are no longer nameless statistics."
Fr. Daniel Lydon, CSV, president, wanted to ensure that Portrait of a Soldier came to Saint Viator after seeing it last year at the Arlington Heights Memorial Library.
"The Portrait of a Soldier exhibit was deeply moving," Lydon said. "After seeing it, I became even more committed to promoting patriotism at Saint Viator. I was delighted when we were able to arrange for the exhibit to come to Saint Viator."
The exhibit, in part, is personal for Lydon. One of the portraits is that of Marine First Lt. Andrew Stern, who grew up in Arlington Heights. His mother, Eileen Stern, taught Spanish at Saint Viator with Lydon during the mid-1990s.
He moved with his family to Memphis and went on to attend the University of Tennessee, where he was a co-captain of the crew team and graduated in 2001.
After the attacks on 9/11, he enlisted in the Marines and ultimately served as a platoon commander, leading a tank battalion.
Andrew was killed Sept. 16, 2004, near Fallujah in Iraq. He was 24.
Remembering Andrew's service and honoring all veterans, especially those killed since 9/11, is part of the mission of SALUTE, Inc., based in Palatine, which helped bring the exhibit to Saint Viator.
"So many of these portraits are of young people from our community," said Mary Beth Beiersdorf, executive director of SALUTE.
"It's our job to honor them and make them available to the community. Many of them are 19, so high school students are their peers. By seeing these portraits, we're hoping students understand what they sacrificed for our country."