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UM completes renovations to Memory Garden

By Bill Dabney

University of Mississippi

The University of Mississippi has completed renovations to the Ole Miss Memory Garden, adding new brickwork patterns, additional seating and a tiered foundation that invites passersby into an ambiance of serenity and grace.

At the rear of Paris-Yates Chapel, the bench-lined terrace stands as a monument to students who lost their lives while enrolled at Ole Miss and welcomes anyone seeking a quiet place to pray, think, meditate or study.

The Memory Gardens’ fountain was made possible by the late Penn Owen of Como, who contributed $100,000 in memory of his mother, the late Mary “May” Davis Owen, a 1928 UM liberal arts graduate, also of Como.

“I’ve always thought Paris-Yates Chapel is really something special and the Paris family members were my mother’s great friends, going way back to Henry’s parents,” Owen said in 2015. “So I asked Henry if there was something I could do with this money around the chapel.”

Paris contacted Chancellor Emeritus Robert Khayat, who proposed a beautification of the existing terrace on the grounds of the nondenominational chapel, which is used for various events, including weddings, memorial services and honors programs.

“The fountain terrace is a beautiful addition to Paris-Yates Chapel,” Khayat said. “It’s an enhancement that we’ve wanted to bring to fruition for some time now.

“The Owens’ gift makes it possible and, for that, we are grateful, as will be the countless generations of students and others who enjoy this peaceful space.”

The Ole Miss Memory Garden is the brainchild of the Class of 2006 and Sparky Reardon, Ole Miss dean emeritus of students. Later, the Class of 2011 donated the garden’s four benches.

“Ole Miss is such a family-oriented place that when we lose one student, everyone is affected,” Reardon said. “The garden will provide a place where any member of the Ole Miss family may go to remember the lives of those who have gone before.”