by Patty Gelb
The clock tower, rising above University Hall on Bancroft Street, is a Toledo fixture. As an alum, you may remember walking across campus and telling time by its chimes at the top of the hour. Centennial Mall, the crossroads of the main campus and location of one of Toledo’s most celebrated art festivals, Art on the Mall, is traversed by thousands annually. The Glass Bowl holds more than twenty thousand screaming fans every UT Rockets football game.
But there is probably not a more reverent and tranquil place on campus as The University of Toledo Veteran’s Plaza.
Dedicated on November 11, 2009, The University of Toledo Veteran’s Plaza is an outdoor memorial created to honor all those who served our country. Located between Centennial Mall and the east entrance of the building that many UT alumni would know as the Memorial Field House, the Veteran’s Plaza is a reflective and beautiful spot on campus.
The plaza is a large circular monument cut into the grassy hill beside University Hall. The memorial itself is built of stone with stately brass plaques displayed in an arc. Standing a few feet away from the center of the arc are three flagpoles displaying the United States flag, the flag of the State of Ohio and the POW/MIA flag, appropriately lit twenty-four hours a day. Across from the stone memorial and flags is a seating area of engraved stone benches set in a curve. The area is surrounded by a beautifully landscaped garden planted with evergreens, flowering bushes and a weeping tree standing proudly at the center.
Although the area itself is beautiful, the names, messages and tributes displayed on the wall are what make the Veteran’s Plaza such a special place to stop and spend some time. The memorial honors almost 400 individuals and groups who served our country. Messages on the plaques are tributes from family members, friends, high school and college chums, corporations and service groups to the honored loved ones who served in one of the divisions of the armed services. Reading the messages, running your fingers over the lettering, seeing the flowers left next to a name will take your breath away and remind you of your loved ones who served.
The project to build the memorial was four years in the making. Groups of dedicated volunteers and representatives from the community banded together to expedite this project to give the community a place where the greater Toledo community can meditate and reflect. The entire $250,000 plaza was paid through donations and in-kind gifts to the UT Foundation.
“As a ROTC commissioned officer from UT, being a part of the team that helped get the Veteran’s Plaza built was a labor of love and patriotism,” said Chip Carstensen, president of Block Communications and member of the UT Veteran’s Plaza committee. “Block Communications has long supported veterans in Toledo and it was an easy decision to make a significant contribution that motivated other companies to step up and build the memorial on UT’s campus. It’s one of very few universities that celebrate our military and veterans.”
People may think that it was intended for UT students who were veterans but it was a community-wide initiative intended to honor all of those in our area who served.
“In the workaday world that surrounds each of us, there is little time and few places to remember those who have served our country,” said Vern Snyder, vice president for institutional advancement. “The University of Toledo Veteran’s Plaza stands as just such a place for our veterans, our community and, most importantly, our students.”
For those interested in still honoring a loved one at The University of Toledo Veteran’s Plaza, you can contribute $1,000 toward a custom plaque on the wall to honor a veteran. Nameplate listings are sold for $100. If you are interested in more information on how to honor someone on the wall, please contact Gail Simpson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419.530.8425.
The next time you are on the campus of The University of Toledo, please stop by the Veteran’s Plaza and take a few moments to enjoy this very special memorial on campus.