Image courtesy: Hannah Delongchamp

The construction of the COVID Memorial has finished and the site is now open. The pandemic made an impact on the SNHU community in various ways, from online classes, to lack of in-person connections and devastating losses of family and friends.

SNHU felt the weight of the pandemic after losing its own family members. President Paul LeBlanc discussed the grieving process being incomplete and how the new memorial would be able to help navigate that.

“We had this idea of creating a memorial and reflection space where people might find peace, engage in the ritual of planting a tree in memory of a loved one, or simply reflect and breathe,” said LeBlanc.

SNHU partnered with The Yale School of Architecture to host a design contest that allowed students and recent graduates to submit a design for the structure in front of a panel of judges. The commission went to recent graduate, Katharine Blackman.

Heather Lorenz, Vice President of Student Affairs and Campus-Based Initiatives, was on the committee and participated in the selection process. She also felt the space was perfect for reflection. “I think this is a creative way to create a space on our campus to go and reflect and think about the impact of the pandemic, while also thinking about the lives lost during that time,” said Lorenz.

President LeBlanc hopes the space will provide an escape for students as they deal with the impact of the past few years. “For those who [lost] loved ones during the pandemic, or simply feel the weight of that terrible period, I hope the space brings some sense of relief, closure, and gratitude,” said LeBlanc.

LeBlanc wanted a space on campus where activity can feel like inactivity. “We often think campus facilities and spaces are transactional. Places designed for study, eating, sleep, play, learning, and more. There is value in a space that puts the transactional aside, and one can go from doing to simply being,” said LeBlanc. “It’s the spatial equivalent to meditation, in a sense.”

A group who had lost loved ones during that pandemic was invited to see the memorial before it was officially open to the public.

“More than one [person] said they were almost immediately moved when they entered the space and many lingered, finding a bit of space for themselves alone. It persuades me that we got it right,” said LeBlanc.

The COVID Memorial can be found across from the tennis courts on campus. All students are welcome to enter the space at any time.

“As this location is nestled in the wooded parts of campus, it feels private and has a calming effect when you are there,” said Lorenz. “I hope our community takes time to appreciate its beauty.”