Musselman and the Memorial
Court Fountain at Fresno State
Memories and monuments to those memories help create a fabric of richness to a university’s history. And over our 100 years, the Memorial Court Fountain has become only one of dozens of threads that helps create the fabric of Fresno State.
A memorial to those who made the ultimate sacrifice in war time has become one of Fresno State's most iconic images. The Memorial Fountain has been a familiar sight since its dedication on Dec. 7, 1962. It is an elegantly simple fixture. Balletic arcs of water rise and fall, creating constant and soothing splashes of sound. At night, it becomes a lovely and alluring beacon of light.
The idea for the fountain dates back to the days after World War II. Fresno State was located at its original home, at Van Ness and McKinley avenues in central Fresno. War veterans were enrolling in college. Other men and women who had worked the civilian war effort also were resuming their educations. By 1948, student leaders wanted to honor their peers and Fresno State alumni who died in the war. They raised $5,000 to start a fund for a memorial. But the project had to wait.
Fresno State, with its growing enrollment, was about to launch a massive move to a larger, permanent home at Cedar and Shaw avenues in northeast Fresno. The transition started in 1950 and would take about eight years to complete. The fountain is part of what was originally named Memorial Court (now often called Memorial Plaza). The court was dedicated in the mid-1950s to honor alumni killed in World War II and in the Korean War. The project took shape along the main central walkway through the new campus. Trees and concrete benches line the path, from the fountain on the court's west side to the Rose Garden at its east end.
The fountain – its full name is Memorial Court Fountain – was the project's finishing touch. It was designed by artist Darwin Musselman, an alum and member of the Fresno State faculty. The original plan included 19 lights of blue, green, red and gold for nighttime. A stereo sound system was later installed to play music. Musselman would establish himself as a renowned painter. His impressive range – from realism to abstract expressionism – would earn acclaim at major museum shows and national and international exhibitions. He died in 2001.
The fountain has become a favorite place for students and visitors to meet up, chat and study. And, it's a popular spot for photography. It's also has had its share of, well, interesting moments. In 2004, for example, it was painted red – one of Fresno State's colors -- for homecoming. It wasn't a striking success. The fountain also has been a source of amusement when the occasional anonymous prankster dumps detergent in the sloshing water to create mounds of soap suds. All that's ever missing is a yellow rubber duck.
But make no mistake, the fountain is a welcomed, familiar constant in the daily life of the Fresno State community. It remains one of the university's most identifiable and enduring landmarks.The fountain was presented as a gift to Fresno State from several classes – 1957, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962 and 1963 – and from Mr. and Mrs. John Masten. He was a former agriculture professor, who contributed many of the trees along the Memorial walkway. The Mastens gave their donation in the name of their daughter, Louise Masten Jensen, who had graduated in 1951.