Safety Pin

Everyday Vitalism
Safety Pin
By Rebecca Koch, Director of Service Initiatives

So, how did a giant safety pin – a mammoth representation of a simple symbol near and dear to generations of chiropractors’ hearts – serendipitously end up at one end of Celebration Plaza, outside the Center for Chiropractic Education? Moreover, how is it possible that a privately commissioned artwork of this scale could come to LIFE at virtually no cost? Close the PinIt was such an extraordinary series of events that came together so seamlessly that, according to Dr. Riekeman, “it seemed as if the Universe simply wanted us to have it.” And, when it comes to relating most acts of fate, we have to start at the beginning.

A few years ago, a local businesswoman, Joan Barnes of Marketing Specifics, Inc., commissioned the safety pin sculpture to commemorate her 50th birthday. Why a safety pin? She wanted to symbolize her philosophy of simplicity as a designer. As Einstein said, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler,” and the safety pin is the essence of simplicity; it has every part it needs and nothing more.

Several years after her birthday, Joan sold her business and wanted to donate the sculpture to a place where it would be cared for, seen and enjoyed by many people for years to come. Again, fate played a part because Joan’s former business happened to be located in Kennesaw, also home to one of the most community minded chiropractors in Georgia (and maybe in the US), Dr. Cris Eaton-Welsh.

How was Dr. Cris’s involvement fateful? It would take a chiropractor to know the safety pin serves as a symbol for the philosophy underlying chiropractic, a healing profession that helps patients by restoring and improving the function of the central nervous system. For chiropractors, this simple machine – the safety pin – perfectly and simply illustrates the effect of the care chiropractors provide. When engaged, a safety pin completes the connection between its open ends just as corrections provided by chiropractic care complete the connection between brain and body. In fact, this simple machine has served as a symbol for chiropractic for nearly a century.

It also happens that Dr. Cris is a LIFE alumna. Once she learned her neighbor, Joan, was looking to find a home for the sculpture, Dr. Cris wasted no time contacting her alma mater to ask if its president, Dr. Guy Riekeman, would be interested in accepting the donation of a giant safety pin. Dr. Riekeman immediately saw the value of such an unbelievably relevant symbol and seized the opportunity to provide a permanent home for the donation. He instantly saw the “sculpture’s value as a reminder that all students come to Life University in that unconnected state, open to learning how to close the loop between their desire to live lives of success and significance, and the acquisition of the knowledge and skills they’ll need to do it. It’s our job to help them learn to make that connection.”

It also happens that Life University’s Grounds team is led by John Wheeler with a can-do attitude when it comes to making things happen on campus. Again, fate stepped in to play a role because LIFE also has a Physical Plant director, Mike Sterling, who – remarkably – had previous experience moving a gigantic sculpture through Metro Atlanta traffic. Together with the Grounds team, a plan was developed for relocation and the Grounds team went into action. Within days, they’d borrowed the perfect trailer (one used to haul the also-gigantic Lights of LIFE displays), broken down the sculpture’s stone base, loaded it up, moved it, and stored it safely away until summer break, when Mike and his Physical Plant team could design and build a new mounting system.

In the end, everything came together almost seamlessly, making it seem inevitable that this delightful work of art should find it way to LIFE’s campus. Clearly, the Universe had known from its beginning that the world’s largest privately commissioned safety pin* and the world’s largest chiropractic program were made for one another. And that is how a beautifully simple – and awesomely huge – safety pin came to be a perfect part of the Life University campus.

In summing up the receiving of a giant safety pin as a perfectly symbolic and delightfully whimsical donation to LIFE’s campus, Dr. Riekeman said: “First, in addition to it being a chiropractic symbol that represents the neurological connection between the brain and the body, it also represents the notion of how the body interacts with the environment. This is a symbol of how all the systems of the body and the environment work. So, in our Statement of Purpose, as approved by the Board, it states that we believe these systems work best when they are free of interference and that there are three interferences to the nervous system which interrupt the flow of information…physical trauma, environmental toxins and emotional stresses. Thus this represents all of our programs at Life U. Finally, the reason it is open is to remind each of us every day that our job is to go out and educate and care for the world by reconnecting (closing the loop/pin) through our chosen disciplines. When we have corrected all the interferences to the innate expression in all people, we will close the pin.”

*The world’s largest safety pin is 21-feet tall (LIFE’s is approximately 15 feet tall) and located in San Francisco at the public De Young Museum sculpture garden. (


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