5/15/17 ASHLAND, Ohio – By Ashland University’s Homecoming in October of 2017, a formerly grassy area near the Jack and Deb Miller Memorial Chapel will be transformed into a quiet and serene oasis on campus. On Friday, May 5, 2017, the Ashland University Women’s Auxiliary “turned the dirt” for a proposed Prayer Garden on the east side of the Miller Chapel.
The Prayer Garden began as a discussion in 2015 between AU’s First Lady Karen Campo and Rev. Jason Barnhart, executive director of Christian Ministry. Barnhart shared his vision to provide a place for prayer, peace and quiet among the busyness of campus life.
Karen Campo, representing the AU Women’s Auxiliary organization comprised of spouses of past and present AU Board of Trustees and Executive Leadership, desired to bring a meaningful project to the Auxiliary women that they could support and see through to fruition. After hearing Barnhart’s heart and vision, she felt a Prayer Garden would be the perfect collaboration between the Women’s Auxiliary and the Office of Christian Ministry.
When she shared the idea of the Prayer Garden with members of the Auxiliary, the members wanted to know more. Toby White, supervisor of grounds at AU, created a garden design, and the Auxiliary commissioned a full color rendering by AU graduate and graphic artist Cecelia Maxwell.
After seeing the visual presentations, the Auxiliary enthusiastically voted to move ahead.
“This garden needs to happen,” said Auxiliary member Lani McKnight. Inspired by the artwork, Lani and her husband, Paul McKnight, gave the lead gift for the Prayer Garden and other Women’s Auxiliary members and friends followed with their support. The Auxiliary members committed to raising $15,000 as a group, as well as a commitment to financial responsibility: the Prayer Garden groundbreaking would not happen until the initial goal was reached. Contributions received over-and-above the cost would be used for ongoing garden maintenance.
Student and campus support also was important to the Women’s Auxiliary. In response to a suggestion by Dr. Dan McDonald, chair of the AU Art Department and Faculty Senate president, students from Professor Janis Wunderlich’s Ceramics I and II classes designed a mosaic wall for the south end of the Garden. Clay tiles were hand-crafted by students as well as Auxiliary members, working alongside each other.
Also, a large redwood cross will oversee the Garden on the east wall of the Miller Chapel. Tim Plank, a long-time Ashland University carpenter, built the cross from reclaimed lumber from the original Redwood Stadium that existed where Clark Hall and Kilhefner Hall now stand.
The garden will include flowering plants, shrubs and trees that will provide color throughout the year. Several of the current trees will remain. A walking path, benches, and inspirational scriptures and signage will complete the Prayer Garden.
Current plans call for AU facilities and grounds personnel to work on the project throughout the summer and the Women’s Auxiliary anticipates a dedication service being held during Homecoming Weekend 2017.
Karen Campo affirms, “The Prayer Garden will be a beautiful and meaningful addition for the campus community. The Garden will create a natural and welcoming space.”
The Ashland University Women’s Auxiliary was initiated by former AU First Lady Janet Clayton in 1959. The Women’s Auxiliary meets three times a year for educational, social and philanthropic activities and continues the tradition of vibrant and active support of the Ashland University community.
Ashland University, ranked in the top tier of colleges and universities in U.S. News and World Report’s National Universities category for 2017, is a mid-sized, private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Ashland University (www.ashland.edu) deeply values the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong, applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students. ###