I said to the almond tree, "Sister, speak to me of God," And the almond tree blossomed. - Haiku given to St. Francis.
Monuments of Spirit
By Steve Frangos
Special to The National Herald
ROUND LAKES, Ill.-The raising of an obelisk in western Michigan to one's Greek immigrant parents is perhaps the most unique expression of love
and remembrance yet seen in North America. Anyone traveling to Big Rapids,
Michigan can now visit Ferris State University campus' new Circle of
Inspiration and see this monument. The obelisk, which stands 36 feet
tall, weighs 24.5 tons of monument-quality granite, serves as the centerpiece
of the 150-foot Bond Circle. Given its weight and height, this needle of
stone requires a 10 to 20 foot cement base underground. The obelisk is the
focalm point of what will eventually be a landscaped circle 80 feet in
diameter, surrounded by granite benches and ten pedestals inscribed with poetry.
The site features dramatic nighttime lighting. The systematic planting of
trees and other landscaping around the circle has also begun.
Of the ten pedestals surrounding the obelisk, eight will hold plaques
featuring poetry of students, alumni, faculty and famous poets. The
other two pedestals feature a history of the obelisk and a dedication to the
parents of George A. Rapanos, the benefactor of this site.
The dedication reads:
Dedicated to all our forefathers, those brave immigrants, who came to
this land of opportunity so that they and their descendants may have a life
In Memory of
Alexandros Nicolaous Rapanos
Emigrated from Greece 1910
Nicoletta (Agnostopoulos) Rapanos
Emigrated from Greece 1928
I said to the almond tree,
"Sister, speak to me of God,"
And the almond tree blossomed.
Haiku given to St. Francis
Presented to Ferris State University
By George A. Rapanos
Graduate of Ferris State University B.S. Pharmacy 1957
New York University M.A. Religious Studies 1990
Armies marched in a cloud of dust,
Like tin solders they turned to rust.
The whole world is restless and confused. It will always be so long as
man sets his ideals on the wrong objects. There will be no real peace or
happiness until man realizes what he seeks comes from within himself.
THE HIDDEN TREASURE
"The Pearl of Great Worth"
There is a hidden Treasure,
Most search for it in vain.
It comes down from heaven,
And it falls like the rain.
This treasure is not one of silver,
This treasure is not one of gold.
The source of this hidden treasure,
Lies deep within one's soul.
A treasure more precious than silver,
A treasure more precious than gold.
To find this hidden treasure,
You must look within your soul.
How this massive obelisk came to this small town in western Michigan is
a complicated story.
George A. Rapanos is a retired pharmacist, real estate developer and
actively practicing poet. Mr. Rapanos is the son of Greek immigrant
parents raised in the small town of Midland, Michigan. During the Depression
years the Rapanos' were only one of three Greek families in Midland. A man of
many parts, Mr. Rapanos had long contemplated the construction of an obelisk
dedicated to the memory of his parents and other immigrants. He
envisioned a single piece of granite, three-feet-by-three-feet and thirty-feet tall.
Professional stonemasons told him it could not 't be done in one piece.
On the night of February 8, 2000, when George Rapanos turned on his
television, he certainly did not expect to see anything beyond the
ordinary. As fate would have it, George had tuned in to the documentary,
"Pharaoh's Obelisk," which was a segment of the Nova series, "Secrets of Lost
Empires." The film documented three separate attempts to erect a 36-foot-tall,
30-ton monument-quality needle of carved granite using only those means
available to ancient Egyptians. The first two attempts in Egypt failed, but a
third attempt in the United States succeeded.
Mr. Rapanos immediately contacted Fletcher Granite Quarry in Chelmsford,
Massachusetts, where the successful raising took place, to see if they
could make one for him. The company told him he could buy the very obelisk he
had seen on television, as it was being auctioned on e-Bay. In March 2000,
George Rapanos became the successful bidder. Rapanos says. "It seems as
if an innermost being was irresistibly drawing me in the direction of what
I believe to be my destiny." Ten percent of the proceeds of the sale went
to benefit New York City public school I.S. 90, whose students are largely
children of Dominican Republic immigrants. The remainder of the sale was
used for the production of other documentaries.
"It's magnificent, and shows the involvement to make the world a better
place" Richard Santer, Ferris emeriti.
After securing the obelisk, Mr. Rapanos was looking for a location in my
home town of Midland. But that was not to be the case. As a graduate of
Ferris State, George Rapanos was having dinner at the annual Presidents
Club get together. I mentioned what I was attempting to do and President
Sederburg said, "Let's do it here."
On October 25, 2001, the Pharaoh's Obelisk arrived at Ferris State
Rapanos' dream became real when the obelisk was raised (with modern
equipment and carefully, since granite is susceptible to stress
fractures), in Bond Circle where it is now the center of a the "Circle of
Every person has a purpose and mission, and they are drawn in the
direction of their destiny, says Rapanos. Poetry gives meaning to existence. It
stirs the spirit and gives awareness of our origins. His view helps explain
the phrase on the dedication plaque describing the obelisk: "Symbolizes the
ray of light shining from God to enlighten mankind."
The Circle is a site used for reflection. It is intended to be a place
where students, faculty, alumni and community members can sit, think, and be
inspired by the poetry and the obelisk. Anyone is welcome to walk
around, sit on the benches and reflect on life. "Mr. Rapanos is especially
pleased to provide Ferris students and staff with a place on campus that is
especially conducive to pausing and reflecting on one's life," said Dan
Hurley, assistant to the President, who has worked with Mr. Rapanos in
coordinating the project. "Upon its completion, the project will serve
as a garden of sorts, rather than a stand-alone sculpture-a place designed to
contribute to a heightened sense of spirituality for all those who visit
Besides being an inspiration to all who see it, the circle and obelisk
represent Ferris' commitment to excellence. As Dr. Sederburg, president
of Ferris State University states there are four reasons "why we like our
obelisk: it raises our focus and determination, represents the union of
technology and art, shows the reflection of history and is the start of
beautifying West Campus."
On September 18, 2002, the Circle of Inspiration was dedicated.
Approximately seventy-five people were in attendance, including Board of
Trustees members, emeriti, staff and an art class. Speakers included
President William Sederburg, Student Government President Kaci Baars,
Professor Phillip Sterling, Trustees Chair Bruce Parsons and George
Dr. Phillip Sterling, professor of languages and literature at Ferris
State University's College of Arts and Science said, in part: "It seems
appropriate that such a provision is made in a public place for poetry
and inspiration to be centered around an obelisk, a monument to human
endeavor and triumph. May this "Circle of Inspiration" serve as a kind of open
air temple; a place of safety and comfort. May it bond us to the
possibilities for poetry, for magic and for peace. May it provide for all who pause
here at Ferris State, a portal, the deep heart's core."
Other people at the time also thought well of the project. "It's a
wonderful addition to this side of campus," said Professor Don
Flickinger. "It shows a move toward encompassment."
Richard Santer, Ferris emeriti, agreed. "It's magnificent, and shows the
involvement to make the world a better place, as Mr. Ferris wanted it.
It also shows alumni's responsibility of giving back to the university."
Students in attendance also showed much appreciation of the circle and
obelisk. Mike Chitpasong, a junior in business, said it was a beautiful
addition to campus. The whole obelisk project was inspired largely by a
trip to India George Rapanos made in 1998. The trip had a profound impact
spiritually and ideologically on Rapanos. A cousin of his operates an
ashram there and feeds, clothes and educates more than 40 children from the
area. Speaking from life experience, Rapanos observed that "You can talk all
you want and it changes nothing. Actions are all that matter in the material
world." So, Rapanos now feels that projects like the Ferris State
obelisk are mandatory since "What I want is to inspire love and transcendence in
people." The inspiration Rapanos hopes to give to others can be both
fragile and enduring, not unlike a 30-ton slab of granite.
Rapanos credits several people at the University for helping to make the
project a reality, including Artist-in-Residence Robert Barnum,
assistant to the President Dan Hurley, Director of Planned Giving and Development
Debra Jacks and President William Sederburg. Regardless of his personal
success in business matters, George Rapanos was restless. His life-long quest in
spiritual matters led him, not just to India, but also to a master's
degree in theology at New York University. Along the way, George Rapanos has
managed to write three books: "The Tao of Tribute Money; In Search of
the Hidden Treasure: The Pearl of Great Worth" and "Pearls of Great Worth,"
all published by Avensblume Press of Midland, Michigan.
Any of these volumes are sure to surprise the reader. They are not
narrative texts; rather, all of George Rapanos' books, to date, are anthologies.
Yet these books are not simply compiled selections from other writers.
Curiously, these anthologies go back to Nineteenth Century models. With
the goal of inspiring his readers, as was the intent of those earlier
anthologies, George Rapanos has gathered a sizable number of those
writers that first awaken new ideas within him. Poems, selections from world
novelists, quotations from the Bible, the writings of Ramanuja or Tao Te
Ching, can be found on the same page of one of Rapanos' books next to an
observation by Nietzsche. Certainly Rapanos' spirit (and at times even
his writing) connects the numerous authors, ideas, and visions. But it is
not George's intent to consciously come between the reader and the
experience that the reading itself can induce.
As Mr. Rapanos has observed, "Man does not live merely to serve higher
ideals, but that these ideals, in their turn, furnish the necessary
conditions of his existence as a human being." Whether you agree, or
even understand, George Rapanos' various worldly projects or spiritual
anthologies, there is no doubt that this one man is attempting nothing
less than to help raise monuments to promote the spiritual life of the world