The Hidden Owl at Columbia University

One of the most beautiful and pleasant places in the city is the campus of Columbia University. It is simply incredible that such a place exists in the tightly packed metropolis that is Manhattan, and I never pass up a chance to visit.

Alma Mater 01

Located in the center of campus is the statue of Alma Mater (actually the goddess Minerva), by Daniel Chester French. Now known as a symbol for the university, Alma Mater’s arms are raised invitingly toward the campus, as if she is welcoming in the knowledge surrounding her.

Alma Mater 02

As it turns out, Alma Mater has a secret: an owl, hidden somewhere in the folds of her robe.

Alma Mater 03

I won’t tell you exactly where it is – half the fun is taking a few minutes to search for the owl and being surprised at how cleverly it is hidden. Also, there are a number of legends about what happens to those who find the owl on their own (marry a Barnard student within the year, get straight A’s, etc.), and I’d hate to deprive you of any of these rewards. 😉


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  1. Hee! I’ve been at Columbia for 15 years, as a grad student and as a librarian, and I’ve NEVER found the owl. Well done, Scout!

    No doubt you’re aware that Alma Mater also features on the terra cottas of the 116th St station outside our gates.

  2. I found the owl four years ago when i visited Columbia for a tour. My family and I took photos of me pointing out the owl. Now, after spending four years performing, I’m finally going to attend Columbia. I’ll just have to see if any of those legends come true!