September 28, 2017

Tom Risser '85 Creates Art Rooted in Guilford’s Core Values

Behind South Apartments now stands a sculpture that is a testament to the Core Values that tie the Guilford community together. A tree, welded by Tom Risser '85 and entitled “Growth Cycle,” provides a visual reminder of who we are with seven very familiar words adorning its base — community, diversity, equality, excellence, integrity, justice and stewardship.

Tom, a Math and Physics double major, went on to run a family business, US Bottlers Machinery, with his wife, Daisy '85 (an Administration of Justice major). Both have been engaged alumni since graduation. Their children Carson '17, now studying film at the NC School of the Arts, and Sam '19 are also Guilfordians. 

The base of the piece also serves as a bench, turning this piece of art into a place for students to relax, study, chat or reflect. It took more than five years for Tom to design and construct the piece — overcoming multiple health conditions and the perilous work of building a life-sized tree from steel and fire — making it representative of resilience in both its make-up and its story. 

Tom says he hopes this piece serves as a message to Guilford from a grateful alumnus, saying, “Thanks, Guilford, for supporting my growth and for showing me there is something budding inside that needs to be nurtured. Thank you for my first art class and for sending me to engineering school with an understanding of how to integrate art and science. Thanks for supporting art on campus in permanent installations. And thank you for bringing insight, understanding and compassion to our future.”