Oct. 13, 2021
Reading time: 3 minutes, 19 seconds

If there was one word John Stenger would use to describe his late stepfather, the beloved University of West Georgia art professor Henry Setter, it would be “treasured.”

Henry Setter
Henry Setter

Stenger recently reinforced that Setter’s legacy will live on thanks to his gift to the Henry Setter Memorial Scholarship, a merit-based scholarship in support of UWG art students concentrating in sculpture originally founded in 2018 by Setter’s loved ones.

“It’s a loving way we keep alive the treasured memory of my stepfather,” Stenger expressed. “I know he would be pleased to know funds dedicated in his honor are advancing students today and in the future. His name is being used in the same spirit as when he was teaching.”

Setter, born in Ohio in 1929, married Stenger’s mother when Stenger was 10 years old.

“My mother, Martha, was a widow with five children when Henry became our beloved stepfather,” Stenger explained. “In some cosmic way, God put him as a father figure into our lives, and he reveled in that. He loved having a family.”

In the 1970s, Setter and his new family moved from Cincinnati to Carrollton when he accepted a job as an art professor at then-West Georgia College.

“Carrollton was a gift to us, and Henry felt very fortunate at that stage in his life to find a teaching job,” Stenger said. “Carrollton was a place where he found something he had long sought and wanted in his heart.”

Stenger described Setter as a “force of nature” who was loved by students.

“Art and the pursuit of the aesthetic drove him,” Stenger said. “So many students were devoted to him, and they knew they were getting better under his direction.”

Cathy Amos ’78 ’83 was one such student. Amos – an art teacher for 30 years who now works as a docent at Emory University’s Michael C. Carlos Museum – said Setter’s lessons have echoed throughout her career.

“My students would often ask why there were assignments – they just wanted to draw,” said Amos, who also gives to the Setter scholarship. “I would hear Henry in my head. He always said if there are no guidelines, there’s nothing to be creative about. Henry gave me that foundation, and I am forever grateful.” 

In addition to teaching, Setter – who over the years came to be known as Carrollton’s sculptor-in-residence – created several pieces of art for his adopted hometown. In the 1990s, city officials commissioned him for a sculpture that would educate citizens about the region’s agricultural past. 

John Stenger
John Stenger 

In 1995, Setter’s idea of a farmer, made of bronze, sitting on a cotton bale, made of a 3,000-pound block of granite, was approved. “The Cotton Farmer” took three years to complete and was dedicated in 1997 outside the courthouse in downtown Carrollton.

Setter’s legacy lives not only in his students and recipients of the scholarship but, in a way, in every student who attends UWG. The Flame of Knowledge, a sculpture created by Setter in 1998, adorns the main entrance of campus and is lit by the president in an annual tradition at the beginning of each fall semester.

“It’s so meaningful that sculptures can be enduring,” Stenger said. “The cotton farmer and the flame were among Henry’s last major works of art, as he was diminishing in vigor. It represents his lifeforce, however, even though it took a little more effort. He followed through and got it done, which was Henry’s way.”

He continued that because of the memorial scholarship and the sense of community, the Setter-Stenger family will have a lifelong connection to UWG. 

“This is yet another example of how UWG has given Henry, even in death, an opportunity to advance what he always wanted, and that is art and the pursuit of the aesthetic,” Stenger concluded. “Carrollton and UWG gave us something that we will always be grateful for – a home and a place in the world.” 

For more information about how you can support UWG students through an endowment, scholarship or annual giving, please visit the UWG Give West page.