March 18 marks the 28th anniversary of the first theft of Eastern Michigan University’s life-size bronze statue of the Roman goddess Diana, located on a pedestal in the courtyard outside of Ford Hall.
The 5-foot-3-inch, 150-pound statue, a nude representation of the goddess of the hunt, was sculpted by EMU fine arts graduate Darryl Miller and donated to the university in 1982.
Former EMU art professor John Pappas told The Eastern Echo in 1985 that Miller’s statue was an assignment from his graduate program, and he donated the piece to the university as part of the Art on Campus Committee’s plan to develop more sculptures on campus by students.
On March 18, 1985, John Van Haren, the head of EMU’s Art Department at the time, reported the theft of the statue, which was “securely” mounted with hidden bolts.
“We believe the statue was taken not by a prankster, but by someone skilled who saw the value of the piece and will try and sell it,” Van Haren told The Echo after the theft.
However, days after the statue went missing, The Eastern Echo received a three-page ransom note from the abductor(s), “Requesting that [then] EMU men’s basketball head coach Jim Boyce be removed from the team—or the statue would become ‘200 bronze ashtrays,’” an Echo article said.
A photo of Diana wearing goggle-like sunglasses with a towel around her neck (see photo gallery link at bottom of page) accompanied the ransom note, which was signed, “Lots of Love, Diana.”
The letter, which was turned over to the EMU Department of Public Safety, caused a resurgence in the investigation, but even after receiving an additional correspondence from the statue’s captor(s), it was more than a year before there was a break in the case.
On May 19, 1986, the DPS received a phone call from an anonymous female looking for a reward for the return of the statue. The caller said Diana was in the apartment of an EMU student’s parent in Milford, Mich., which is about 45 minutes north of the university.
Former EMU DPS Director John Garland recovered the statue the next day (after Milford police exchanged Diana for immunity of prosecution) from the student’s parent, who the anonymous caller said likely did not know the statue was stolen.
According to Garland, no one from the university came forward to press criminal charges of extortion and illegal possession of university property.
However, the EMU Dean of Students at the time, Bette White, recommended the student be suspended from classes until January 1987.
At the time, White said the student’s identity would not be released due to the Education Privacy Act.
A university judiciary board made up of two enrolled students, two full-time faculty members and two full-time members of the EMU community denied the accused student’s appeal to overturn the suspension.
Following the theft of Diana, Pappas said the university began looking into different ways to mount the other art works on campus, as well as installing some kind of security system.
After the statue’s return, it was displayed in the McKenny Union Intermedia Gallery as part of an art exhibit before being returned to its original foundation outside Ford Hall after the exhibit closed in July 1986.
Art department officials said the statue, which Pappas said was valued at $5,000 in 1985, was welded in place to prevent further “disappearances.”
However, despite the university’s efforts, Diana was stolen yet again in early November 1994.
The statue was recovered a few weeks later when EMU DPS received a phone call from a man who found Diana behind his garage on the 900 block of West Cross Street, which is right near the Ypsilanti water tower across the street from the university.
Obscenely placed globs of red paint covered the statue, which had been badly damaged from being ripped from its base.
However, the DPS officer working the case, Chuck Mosher, said the investigation was dropped after the statue was recovered.
Diana then sat in the basement of Ford Hall awaiting money to be refurbished before being returned to display in the fall of 1998.
Diana can’t seem to catch a break.
While sometimes she acts as an involuntary spokeswoman or model, such as being dressed in a pink bra during Breast Cancer Awareness Month or having a jack-o-lantern placed on her head for Halloween—these innocuous actions don’t damage a valuable piece of artwork that a fellow alumnus spent God knows how many hours laboring over.
Not to mention the poor “woman” has been through enough, so cut her some slack. And let’s not forget, she is a goddess people—do you really want that kind of karma on your record?
Related: Photo gallery of Diana