College Advancement has begun a yearlong process of formalizing its memorialization program. The program will manage contributions to the Geneseo Foundation that are intended for memorials of students, alumni or community members.
This process is the standardization of earlier practices, according to Vice President for College Advancement K. Johnson Bowles. The focus of the efforts will be ensuring clarity for donors and sustainability of memorials.
“The college has had kind of a loose protocol about this,” Bowles said. “We mainly want to codify and then formalize the program itself, because it’s so important to people.”
Recent memorials on-campus have included the addition of a bench to honor Savannah Williams, according to Dean of Students and Director of the Center for Community Leonard Sancilio.
Geneseo is also awarding the first memorial scholarships in the memories of Matt Hutchinson ’16 and Kelsey Annese ’16, according to Bowles. Bowles emphasized the potential for these less tangible ways to remember members of the community who have died.
Additionally, Bowles feels its important to consider how to respect those who the campus memorializes.
“How do we respect the donor and the individual we’re actually trying to honor and memorialize? That is the most important thing to me,” Bowles said.
Bowles also highlighted the need to plan for the maintenance of memorials in the future.
“I would never want you all to come back on campus someday 20, 40 years from now and say, ‘Wait a minute, what happened to this?’… What do you do when a [memorial] tree is damaged or dies?” Bowles said.
Although the money for such memorials comes from donors, Bowles believes students should still take an active role in the memorialization process. Much of the process of memorialization could come from students’ suggestions and collaboration with College Advancment, according to Bowles.
This formalization process will include a review of existing memorials on campus, according to Bowles. Some memorials that will be looked at include the one honoring members of the campus community who died in the terror attack at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, which has plaque with flags surrounding it located in the arboretum. Ensuring that existing memorials were created sustainably is a key component in creating a formal plan for future memorials, Bowles said.
The process is expected to take until the end of the academic year, according to Bowles. The length of time for the plan mostly results from College Advancement’s search for input from different stakeholders, Bowles continued.
Bowles recognized how much remembrances mean to the community, and believes that such a priority puts more importance on a formal process.
“There’s an urgency when we lose someone, that we have some place or way to connect back to them when they’re not here,” Bowles said. “We have to get that right.”u