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Campbellsville University turns 100-year-old oak tree into praying hands

Aug. 26, 2014
For Immediate Release

By Joan C. McKinney, news and publications coordinator

CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky. – A 100-year-old oak tree on Campbellsville University’s Stapp Lawn is now an eight-foot, 2,000-3,000-pound set of praying hands.

 The praying hands was carved by Rob Peterson.  (Campbellsville University Photo by Rachel DeCoursey)
The praying hands was carved by Rob Peterson.
(Campbellsville University Photo by Rachel DeCoursey)



Rob Peterson, a Louisville chainsaw artist, carved the praying hands for the university. It will be placed outside the pergola between the Administration Building and Stapp Lawn.

Rob Roberts, CU’s director of grounds and landscaping development, came up with the idea of the praying hands carving. The project has been in the works for several months.

The oak tree was cut down this summer due to its being over 70 percent dead, and Roberts said, “It was time to take it down because of safety issues.” The state Forestry Division had examined the tree and made that conclusion.

Roberts found Peterson after a Google search for wood carvers.

“His pictures and website just looked so detailed, and he was very helpful with ideas and suggestions,” Roberts said.

Roberts said he priced this project with another artist, but “Rob’s ideas and price stood out, and we chose him.”

Roberts said Campbellsville University president Michael V. Carter and Otto Tennant, vice president for finance and administration, loved the idea and said to check out Peterson’s availability.

“Turns out he was the right artist, and I do mean ‘artist’ for our project,” Roberts said.

Peterson has done other religious carvings such as angels and Jesus and has done some praying hands on a church mission trip in Honduras. This is the first time he has done such a large praying hands piece.

He is a longtime collector of carvings and other artwork, and he decided to try out the art form of chainsaw carving with several tree stumps from the ice storm of 2009.

In Louisville, you can see his carved fish in front of Middletown Christian Church and an eagle in the St. John Lutheran Church courtyard.He is a juried artist in the Louisville Artisans Guild and received a second place award for his “Old World Globe,” a scrimshaw map on an antique ivory cue ball.

Peterson has worked in residential construction since 1974 and has carved many pieces of art and jewelry. He has done scrimshaw on bone, antler, horn, ivory, fossilized mastodon, ostrich egg and tagua nuts.

His artwork has been on display in many states from Texas to Minnesota to New Hampshire to Florida.

Roberts said as he was looking at images he saw elsewhere around the country and saw two or three praying hands and thought that image would be perfect for a Christian university.

Roberts has another project in mind – a Tiger, after the university’s mascot, but that project, as is the praying hands, is waiting on a donor.

Campbellsville University is a widely acclaimed Kentucky-based Christian university with more than 3,600 students offering 63 undergraduate options, 17 master’s degrees, five postgraduate areas and eight pre-professional programs. The website for complete information is