Tucked away in the shadow of a busy campus life, students can find a space for reflection in the International Peace Garden, cultivated by Tech professor Robert Youngs and his wife Esther 20 years ago.
But the couple, now in their 80s, decided they were no longer physically able to maintain the garden in January 2012, and since, the Students for Non-Violence have decided to carry on the legacy of the hidden serene oasis.
“We have put in easily over 70 hours of volunteer work in the Peace Garden, working this (past) spring and summer,“ said Rohan Cobb-Ozanne, president of Students for Non-Violence. “The bench (we donated) is a symbol of our commitment to maintaining the garden and cultivating compassion within the community.”
Cobb-Ozanne hopes that the club can provide the garden with regular support and campus awareness, while also putting in money and resources to revitalize the garden. The organization hopes to create a pathway of engraved Hokie stones, symbolizing the commitment of student clubs and organizations to the peace garden.
The garden is attached to the Cranwell Center, and was planted by the Youngses in 1993. For 19 years, the couple dedicated their hands and hearts to keeping the garden’s diverse vegetation lush and fertile.
The Youngses moved to Blacksburg from Madison, Wisconsin 28 years ago with the intention of retiring, though Robert ended up teaching at Tech for 10 years. He is now a professor emeritus of forestry and forest products in the College of Natural Resources and Environment, and founded the garden while he was the chair of the Montgomery County Rotary Club. His intentions were to use the garden to honor the international community.
“The idea was that we could provide a visual expression of international cooperation and understanding,” Robert Youngs said. “And we did that by looking for plants that had their origins in many different parts of the world—we try to be careful to avoid invasive plants!”
The Youngses were surprised to find that the plot on which the garden has grown was nicknamed “Hurricane Hill” because of the windy conditions of the hill, and was once a temporary housing settlement for married veterans as they poured into campus after World War II. Though the encampment was removed in the early 1950s, the land’s history is interestingly apt for the purpose that it has now.
Esther Youngs explained that the garden has an abundance of diversity ranging from the Korean Dogwood, Bosnian Pine, Cedar of Lebanon and even some classic American plants. The plants are chosen based on their connections to regions that have seen the tides of war, but that are now at peace, or fighting for peace.
As they turn their garden to the Students for Non-Violence, the Youngses have dedicated a garden bench of their own, in honor of their parents.
Students For Non-Violence was created shortly after the April 16 tragedy and is affiliated with the Center for Peace studies and Violence Prevention. The group promotes peaceful practices, diversity, and community service and is looking for further student support to keep the garden healthy and peaceful.
“This opportunity is a beginning step,” Cobb-Ozanne said. “You take one step to becoming involved and it opens up lots of opportunities, networks, and resources. [We can] really change the community one person at a time and better the future for everyone.”