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Display of Gratitude

New veterans memorial at Washburn a chance to contemplate, commemorate

View of the Washburn campus showing the bell tower and new veterans memorial

(The Washburn Veterans Memorial stands on the northeast corner of the lawn outside the Memorial Union.)

From The Ichabod - Winter 2024
Story by Angela Lutz | Photos by Jeremy Wangler

From the beginning, Washburn had a student veteran. When the school was founded in 1865 as Lincoln College, one early scholar had fought for the Union during the Civil War. Today, many veterans are represented at Washburn, walking the same hallways as previous generations who answered the call to serve. To honor the individuals who dedicated their time – and sometimes their lives – to military service, Washburn dedicated its new veterans memorial Nov. 10, marking a fitting Veterans Day tribute (photo gallery).

“It's all about representing the sacrifices made by our veterans throughout history and making sure current veterans feel comfortable and welcomed and desire to come to Washburn,” said Chris Bowers, ba ’17, ma ’21, Washburn military transition coordinator and advocate, who chaired the memorial planning committee. “It's just one more way to demonstrate to the public our dedication to serving those who serve the nation.”

Completed this summer, the idea for the memorial came about nearly eight years ago. After planning and collaboration was underway, fundraising went quickly to replace the weathered and damaged stone that served for 30 years as Washburn’s Vietnam memorial. Lead gifts from John, ba ’73, jd ’84, and Kristina, ba ’91, Dietrick, and President Emeritus Jerry and Susan, h ’23, Farley helped spur gifts from dozens of others to fund the project.

Sen. Roger Marshall speaks at the dedication of the new veterans memorial at Washburn on Nov. 10

(“Today, and for years to come, we and others will stop and pause to honor current and former students and teachers who are serving or have served in our military,” said Sen. Roger Marshall at the dedication of the Washburn Veterans Memorial on Nov. 10.)

The new memorial, on the northeast corner of the Memorial Union lawn, centers on a bronze sculpture representing a fallen service member and a seven-foot-tall piece of black granite engraved with the names of the 47 Washburn students who died in Vietnam. Seven additional stones surround the perimeter in honor of each of the six branches of the military, along with a stone recognizing the many nurses who served. Bowers said the memorial’s broad reach was a focal point for the planning committee.

“The memorial represents dedication on the part of Washburn to recognize that we all have unique experiences in life, and one of the biggest strengths all veterans share is the broad diversity of people who make up the armed forces,” said Bowers, who served in the Army for 13 years and joined Washburn’s staff in 2017. “This will demonstrate to the community our commitment not only to our veterans but to the inclusion of everyone.”

JuliAnn Mazachek, president, Washburn, speaks at the memorial dedication

(JuliAnn Mazachek, president, Washburn, speaks at the memorial dedication.)

The memorial is also meaningful to student veterans, as it publicly signals a commitment to serving those who have served and bolsters Washburn’s status as a Purple Heart University, as many veterans face challenges when transitioning back to civilian life and need extra guidance. Washburn also receives high rankings for creating opportunities for veterans and has been recognized as the top public regional university in Kansas for veterans. For Washburn industrial engineering student Philip Klaske, who served as a nuclear electrician in the U.S. Navy from 2009-14, the memorial also offers an important chance for passersby to reflect upon its true meaning.

“Memorials are reminders to anybody who walks past and chooses to notice it that freedom is not free,” Klaske said. “There are people who commit their lives to its protection. These memorials honor people who have given their lives in defense of freedom.”

Klaske is aware that many students will rush past the memorial on their way to class, but he hopes once in a while they pause and spend time in the open-air plaza, which also features United States, Kansas, and POW/MIA flags. The memorial was designed to invite interaction and reflection, and Klaske tries to nurture a sense of appreciation when he sees it.

Attendees at the dedication read the stone honoring Washburn students who died in the Vietnam War

(Attendees at the dedication read the stone honoring Washburn students who died in the Vietnam War.)

“With memorials, it’s important to have the mindset they are displays of gratitude from a current generation to a previous generation,” Klaske said. “Don’t just visit it but contemplate. If you take five minutes to observe and think about it, you realize that every name on there is a person who is very much like you, and you can cultivate a sense of gratitude.”

Bowers has gotten a positive response from veterans on campus and in the community, with one committee member telling him the finished product exceeded his expectations. He’s also proud of the way veterans and alumni provided funds to build the memorial, as well as everyone who put their time and energy into creating what he hopes will be a community gathering place for many Veterans Days to come.

“Our motto, ‘not for ourselves alone,’ certainly rang true in this case, because it was not me doing it or any individual, it was all of us together,” Bowers said.

Winter 2024 The Ichabod magazine cover with picture of the bell tower and snow fallen on campus

The Ichabod tells our story with features on alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends, along with the latest campus news. View the current and past editions


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