Artist chosen for Christa McAuliffe Memorial at State House

FILE - This undated file photo provided by NASA shows New Hampshire teacher Christa McAuliffe. McAuliffe was aboard Space Shuttle Challenger on Jan. 28, 1986, when the vehicle exploded shortly after liftoff at the Kennedy Space Center. All seven members of the crew on board perished. (AP Photo/NASA, File)

FILE - This undated file photo provided by NASA shows New Hampshire teacher Christa McAuliffe. McAuliffe was aboard Space Shuttle Challenger on Jan. 28, 1986, when the vehicle exploded shortly after liftoff at the Kennedy Space Center. All seven members of the crew on board perished. (AP Photo/NASA, File) Anonymous

By ERIC RYNSTON-LOBEL

Monitor staff

Published: 12-11-2023 4:33 PM

Modified: 12-12-2023 1:42 PM


Benjamin Victor, a 44-year-old sculptor from Boise, Idaho, has been chosen to design the memorial to Christa McAuliffe that will be placed on State House lawn.

Victor was selected by the Christa McAuliffe State House Memorial Commission, which was established 10 months ago by an executive order from Gov. Chris Sununu. Victor gained recognition as the youngest artist to have a sculpture appear in the National Statuary Hall in the Capitol.

“We are grateful to have such a renowned artist working with the Memorial Commission as we pay tribute to the enduring and formidable legacy of Christa McAuliffe,” Sununu said in a statement. “Victor is known throughout the artistic community for capturing the persona and character of the individuals his work pays tribute to. I have no doubt that, with the help of his vision, this Memorial will be a fitting tribute to Christa McAuliffe.”

McAuliffe taught at Concord High School and was chosen out of 11,000 applicants for the 1984 Teacher in Space Project. She was one of seven crew members killed in the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion on Jan. 28, 1986.

Victor will come to Concord and meet with members of the commission this week, the governor’s office announced. The memorial is expected to be completed by Sept. 2, 2024, in time for what would’ve been McAuliffe’s 76th birthday.

“Everyone has a favorite teacher. Everyone has a teacher who really inspired them in a way that lasts throughout their life. So having a teacher on the State House grounds… it’s very exciting,” Jeanne Gerulskis, the executive director of the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center and a member of the commission, told the Monitor this summer.

Sununu expanded on the significance of this memorial during his budget address in February.

“I think we have an exciting opportunity to ensure we are motivating our kids to be engaged and reach for the stars. Not all heroes wear capes, but some wore space suits,” he said. “...It’s long overdue and will undoubtedly inspire our next generation of students, every time they visit, to achieve the unimaginable.”

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Victor describes his ability to sculpt works of art as a “gift from God.”

“His passion and drive clearly show in each of his unique and profound creations,” his website states. “With expressive features, exquisite detail, and thought-provoking content, the work of Benjamin Victor is sure to take its place among the great masterpieces of art history.”