Rutgers students sitting at the base of William the Silent statue


Matt Stanley

The Huffington Post recently decreed that William the Silent, the bronze fixture on Voorhees Mall at Rutgers University–New Brunswick, is one of the “Most-Loved Statues on College Campuses.” William, one of 22 statues chosen from around the nation, is keeping some august company: Homer (University of Virginia), Abraham Lincoln (University of Wisconsin–Madison), Margaret Thatcher (Hillsdale College), First Down Moses (University of Notre Dame), and the Bruin Bear (University of California, Los Angeles), among other lights. In weighing the criteria for such lofty status, the statue was considered for its role in “students’ traditions, legends, and a penchant for pranking” and whether the statue is a “source of luck, a symbol of pride and achievement, and the world’s most trustworthy confidante.” Legend has it that William—a.k.a. Willie the Silent and Still Bill—only breaks his code of silence to whistle when a virgin walks by him.

William the Silent (1533–1584) was the Count of Nassau, Prince of Orange, and national hero of the Netherlands—appropriate for Rutgers, given its Dutch origins. The one-ton statue was a gift of Fenton B. Turck, a physician and biologist who acquired William in the Netherlands after World War I and stored him in his Manhattan laboratory for eight years. He and Leonor F. Loree RC1877 anonymously presented the statue to Rutgers through the Holland Society; William was unveiled at his present location during a ceremony on June 9, 1928.