After an unusually high number of student deaths in recent years, many on campus felt compelled to find a uniform manner of memorializing all those who died during their time at St. Olaf.
Campus Pastor Bruce Benson, who was involved in the memorials construction, said he hopes the memorial will serve "as a constant reminder that every students life matters."
There will be over 100 wind chimes inside the finished memorial, one in honor of each deceased student since the founding of the college in 1874. In addition to the wind chimes, a slate roof will be added to the current timber-frame tower.
The memorial, intended to resemble a nordic stave church, was both designed and built by St. Olaf faculty and staff. Funds were provided by various sources including the Student Government Association and the family of the late professor Bill Narum. The Naerum familys donation was intended to promote integration between faculty and staff, specifically between senior and junior faculty.
In an attempt to carry out those wishes, the money was used to help a group of 15 faculty and staff members travel to the North House Folk School in Grand Marais, Minn., where they took classes in timber framing and built the memorials components.
Pete Sandberg, director of facilities and a participant in the memorial project, noted that it was particularly beneficial to include untenured professors in this group which also included President Christopher Thomforde, Dean of Students Greg Kneser, and many senior professors.
"We do a better job of bringing new students into St. Olaf than new staff," Sandberg said.
Spanish professor Maggie Broner agreed, saying it was "incredibly rewarding" to bring together such a wide variety of faculty and staff members to build the memorial.
Despite initial ideas to locate the memorial farther from campus, the area betwee Boe Chapel and the Science Center was chosen as the best location. Benson noted that the memorial's vicinity to the chapel is advantageous, creating a "mutual relationship between the two."
Now that the memorial is approaching completion, those directly involved in the project have been able to reflect the success of its twofold purpose: honoring the lives of those students who have died and forging new bonds between faculty and staff members who wouldnt otherwise have opportunities to work closely.
According to Benson, it was an "overwhelming emotional success."
Broner said that the memorial can serve as a metaphor for the themes it embodies. "If you worked on [the memorial] you know there are imperfections. It reminds you that life is not perfect. That students should not die, but it happens." The memorial, she said, is a "reminder that life is precious [and] that youth can be taken away."
Thomforde said the memorial was a "wonderful intersection" between students, faculty and both the Colleges Christian and Norwegian heritage. He added that he hopes that the memorial will serve as a "quiet, sacred place" of personal reflection and thought.
A dedication ceremony for the memorial is scheduled for Sept.28, which is during Homecoming and Family Week-end. The ceremony will be held at the conclusion of that mornings chapel service, the end of which will be held outside by the new memorial.