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Peace Garden Dedication

By Jenna MacKinnon; For the Clock
On October 5, 2016

On Wednesday, Sept. 21 at 9 a.m., a peace garden was dedicated to Plymouth State University on the International Day of Peace.

This garden is located to the right of the Michael L. Fischler Counseling Center, across from Hyde Hall, and is now open to the entire Plymouth community.

Upwards of 50 people, including a group of children accompanied by their caretakers who walked down from the Child Development Center, created a tight semi-circle around the new peace garden to listen to the various speakers that made up the dedication ceremony.

Opening words were given by the Master of Ceremonies Whitney Howarth,  PhD, which was followed by a welcome from President Birx. Birx said that the garden was “a place to come for peace, and for healing.”

Professor of Counselor Education and School of Psychology Leo Sandy, Phd, gave the history of the garden and how they made it happen. The history of the peace garden begins with the tragedy of 9/11, when the faculty was asked which flags should be displayed on campus. Since people from over 70 countries perished in the attacks, PSU faculty members Scott Meyer, Gary McCool, Michael Fischler, Kathy Tardiff and Ray Perkins suggested flying the UN flag.

When this idea was rejected by former President Wharton, Sandy conducted research and found that UN flags on college or university campuses were typically flown in peace gardens. Upon this discovery, they cultivated plans to erect a peace garden.

Alum Jamie McMillan, class of ’08 and owner of McMillan Eco Design, discussed constructing the unique garden. “I’m really grateful. It’s a wonderful project,” he said.

Student Body President Ayla Steere performed a reading of “A Peace Poem”. Then Kathy Tardiff, Catholic campus minister, delivered a blessing to “bless this sacred space”. She explained why the garden features a labyrinth. At the peace garden’s center, there is a labyrinth that Tardiff compared to a short poem, that one should “slow down and savor every step” of. She stressed that “a labyrinth is not a maze. You don’t have to think.” She said that walking it regularly promotes a healthy state of mind.                        

Underneath the center of the labyrinth, there is a stone that reads “hope, faith, awareness” with a breast cancer awareness ribbon to support the healing of all.

The ceremony concluded with sophomore Hannah Grady leading the crowd in the song “Peace is Flowing Like a River”, and President Birx cutting the ribbon.

After being in the works for 15 years, the result is a serene space. Sandy said he hopes that “over time, to have a peace pole, benches, and flora, so it is a peaceful place for people [to] gather or go to alone to find inner peace.”

In his parting words, Sandy said, “We hope that the garden raises consciousness about peace so that it can create a ripple effect.”

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