New memorial unveiled on Veterans Day

Students participated in a Service-Learning Project to update the original

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  • Steve Elliott presents the flag to Jon and Adrian Minks in honor of Jon’s father, who served during WWII.

  • From left to right: Lisa Nelson, Jon Minks, Steve Elliott and Curt Frye at the flag-raising ceremony.

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Melissa Norris, Staff Writer

Tuesday, Nov. 11, was Veterans Day. What better day would there be to unveil the new Veterans Memorial?

The original Veterans Memorial south of Benthack Hall was dedicated in 1919 and honored six Wayne State alumni who lost their lives in World War I.

The new memorial was moved to the Terrace Hall lawn, where a flag-raising ceremony took place after a dedication service in the Terrace lobby.

“Fifty people showed up from both campus and community. It meant so much because it took a while to get to this,” Lisa Nelson, WSC Service-Learning Coordinator, said.

The new memorial was the product of a Service-Learning project students in art and design classes and Steve Elliott, Dean of the School of Arts and Humanities, worked on from 2012 to 2014. Their goal was to expand WSC’s memorial to honor all veterans.

“In 2012 I was approached by members of the Campus Beautification Committee about the possibility of involving my sculpture students in a project to revitalize the original Veterans Memorial on campus,” Elliott said.

Elliott spoke at the dedication and presented Jon and Adrian Minks a flag in honor of Jon’s father, Russell A. Minks.

“I think the ceremony went very well. It was an honor to present the U.S. flag to Adrian and Jon Minks, in honor of Jon’s father, who served during WWII,” Elliott said.

Elliott, a Marine Corp veteran himself, wanted to provide his students a hands-on project.

“In total, we had more than 125 students participate in the project over the course of several semesters. The first phase involved 75 student concept designs, and each concept was vetted and scored by student participants.The Veterans Memorial that now stands on the WSC campus today is a culmination of all of their ideas,” Elliot said.

Elliott, Nelson and others had already known that there was a problem with the old Veterans Memorial.

Six spruce trees were planted after WWI for WSC students who had not returned home. There was never a plaque, or if there was, it had long since been misplaced.

No one knew what those six trees were there for, and one had even been replaced by a bush.

“Whenever we have a student use what they are learning in their curriculum and apply that learning with a focus to meet a community need, that is Service-Learning,” Nelson said.
There certainly was a community need for an updated memorial.

“I’ve participated in several Service-Learning Projects with students involving permanent outdoor installations on campus. This type of a project is a good fit for a hands-on learning environment. The initial project began as a concept model for the memorial, and everyone understood there was no guarantee that the project would actually be funded,” Elliott said.

The search for funds began.

“Steve asked me about getting a service learning sub-grant for students to make small models,” Nelson said.

Once they had decided on a model, they submitted the plan to the Dr. Mona Casady Campus Beautification Fund. It was a $30,000 project. Alumni Jon and Adrian Minks made a large contribution in honor of his father, along with donations from alumni from the Wayne State Foundation.

The memorial does not only honor those six, but also all the soldiers that have fought over the years.

“The trees that had been chosen had a lifespan of 100 year. we hope this monument will stand for another 100 years,” Nelson said.

The new memorial features six amber maple trees in memory of the six Wayne State students who died in World War I: Anton Bastian, Clifford Benshoof and Irvan Lyons of Wayne; George Nelson of Jackson, Raymond Laune of Center and Roy Reed of Winside.