The Synthesis

601 College Street, Clarksville, TN 37044


In front of the Felix G. Woodward Library on Austin Peay State University’s Campus sits a statue with a very powerful meaning. The statue is an enigma, compelling people to stop, look and wonder about its meaning. 

The statue is titled “The Synthesis.” It sits in the middle of a small garden surround by trees, flowers and other plants. The sculpture was created by Clarksville artist Rev. Howard Brown. A 1984 graduate of APSU, Brown is well known for his bronze sculpture of Wilma Rudolph.

“The Synthesis” is constructed of layers of polished marble and is in the shape of a starburst with a hole in the middle. The sculpture sits on a concrete base with several stainless steel plates attached to it. These plates not only identify Brown as the creator of the piece, but also has a description of the sculpture’s meaning and creation. Unfortunately, due to landscaping, the base of the statue has been obscured and the stainless steel plates are no longer visible. 

There is rich symbolism in the sculpture. The hole in the center of the sculpture represents all the people and events that lead students to APSU, as well as all of the people they will encounter and work with while they attend the university. The starburst-shaped marble represents all of the achievements students can achieve as they go out into the world with their college education.

The piece has a mostly symmetrical shape with the exception on one extension of the starburst shooting upward much farther than the others. The inspiration for the piece came from a similar acrylic piece Brown had previously completed. 

The statue was created with considerable help from both the University and from former APSU Art Professor, Dr. Olen Bryant. Originally, the statue was supposed to be placed indoors. However, due to its excessive weight, it was placed in front of the library. 

The piece was unveiled in a small ceremony attended by APSU leadership, faculty and local leaders as part of Tennessee’s Homecoming Celebration in 1986. 

Tennessee Homecoming ‘86 was a state-wide, year-long celebration involving 647 communities across the State of Tennessee. It provided Tennesseans an opportunity to rediscover their past, identify the uniqueness of their own communities and invite other Tennesseans to celebrate with them. It served as a means of showcasing Tennessee’s assets with the nation. 

The celebration was co-chaired by two famous Tennesseans - Alex Haley and Sarah Cannon. Haley, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Roots, hails from Henning, Tennessee. Grand Ole Opry star Sarah Cannon, who portrayed character Minnie Pearl, is from Centerville, Tennessee.


by Eric Martin