It’s a liberal arts dream: to gather leaders of the world’s largest religions, political movements, scientific communities, and philosophical schools into one room. Until Dick Resnick ’61, P’90 sponsored the Great Minds art project, that was impossible.

Tapping the talents of award-winning artist Robin Morris, Resnick commissioned a series of portraits depicting prime movers of human thought. The tally now stands at 29 canvases, and they are all on display for the first time at Colgate during the 2012–2013 academic year.

The vast majority, including Nelson Mandela, Virginia Woolf, and Leonardo da Vinci, can be found at 20 Utica Street in Hamilton. Paintings of Mohandas Gandhi, Eleanor Roosevelt, and four others will be placed in the Case Library and Geyer Center for Information Technology.

Wherever they are installed, the works will generate conversation. Their presentation is in keeping with Morris’s stylized approach, which has been seen on Radio City Music Hall covers, in international museums, and through other commissions from Coca-Cola and Bloomingdales.

The pieces are also designed to provoke discussion about their subjects. “A literature major might find inspiration in Einstein, or a science major might find Virginia Woolf provocative,” said Resnick. “We see the portraits as an opportunity for students to make connections where none existed before, to entertain possibilities for their own work.”

Connections will begin to form on September 13, when Thomas A. Bartlett Chair and Professor of English Jane Pinchin opens the exhibition with a presentation on Virginia Woolf. Morris and Resnick will also be on hand to answer questions. In the months ahead, Professor Robert Kraynak will speak on Thomas Jefferson (October 13), President Jeffrey Herbst on Nelson Mandela (November 13), and Provost Doug Hicks on Jesus and Martin Luther King Jr. (February 13).

More lectures will be scheduled throughout the spring semester. Each event will take place on the 13th of month, and will be a part of the Year of ’13 celebration, which extends throughout 2013.

Every Great Minds portrait tells a unique narrative, which Colgate faculty will amplify through their scholarship; the motivations of the artist and her benefactor are best articulated in words found on another Morris work, called Art for Hire.

“If you can’t stop thinking about this after you leave,” it reads, “I’ve done my job.”