Dixie State to break ground for Peter Neilson Memory Garden

ST. GOERGE – As part of its Centennial fundraising campaign, Dixie State College of Utah will break ground on its first memory garden/enhanced learning center in a special ceremony on Tuesday, March 27, at 1:30 p.m., at the Tanner Fountain on the DSC campus. The event is free and open to the public to attend.

The new memory garden/enhanced learning center will be called the Peter Neilson Memory Garden, named in honor of one of the original settlers of the community of Washington and contributors to the construction of the St. George Tabernacle in the 1860’s. Neilson’s great-great grandson, Ralph R. Neilson of Orange, Calif., purchased the memory garden to permanently honor Peter Neilson and the family on the DSC campus.

Color rendering of the new DSC Peter Neilson Memory Garden. | Image courtesy of Mesa Consulting Group, Inc.

Peter Neilson, a Danish immigrant living in Washington with his wife Karren and two sons, Israel and Peter, Jr., sacrificed the financial comfort he hoped for his family by donating $600 (a small fortune at the time) for the purchase and delivery of 2,244 glass windowpanes for the Tabernacle. Peter Neilson’s generosity and philanthropic legacy has been celebrated in Utah’s Dixie as a true example of the can-do “Dixie Spirit.”

It is that “Dixie Spirit” that has driven the Campaign’s co-chairs and Dixie alumni, Ralph and Cheri Atkin, to spearhead the final fundraising push on behalf of Dixie State College to raise $7 million in committed endowment dollars, including at least $4 million to fund a number of campus capital projects. To coincide with the construction of the new Jeffery R. Holland Centennial Commons Building, which will be completed this May, the campaign will raise money through naming opportunities to improve and enhance the heart of Dixie’s campus with the construction of two new plazas – the Encampment Plaza and Centennial Plaza.

Following the completion of the Holland Centennial Commons Building, the Edith Whitehead Student Services Building will be razed, making room for the new Encampment Plaza. That plaza will feature a number of water features, outdoor class and student study areas, and covered memory gardens, complete with benches and electrical outlets to create a tranquil place for students to study, along with trees and other landscaping. Meanwhile, the Centennial Plaza will also feature memory gardens and student study areas, along with a clock tower that will be erected between the Holland Building and Gardner Student Center.

“All of these projects is going to transform the college from last century of extraordinary service to the next century of really dynamic and wonderful university-type service to the community,” DSC President Dr. Stephen D. Nadauld said. “Not only will we have the academic renovation with the new degrees, but we’ll have the physical renovation that will take us into the next century.”
In addition to the creation of the Encampment and Centennial Plazas, DSC hopes to raise $3 million to fund three endowed academic chair positions in DSC’s four-year accounting, education and communication programs. The creation and funding of these three new positions will enhance Dixie State College’s chances to eventually gain university status.
“For the alumni and the community, we hope they will step forward and say ‘what can I do to help,'” Ralph Atkin said. “It’s going to be interesting to see [the plazas] develop, but we really need the support of the alumni, the community and everyone stepping forward at this time to assist us. It can’t be done by four or five people, it’s going to take a few thousand people to get this done.”

Dixie State’s Centennial Campaign began in 2000, with the goal of raising $100 million by the end of 2011 – $1 million for each year of Dixie’s existence. Due to the generous support of Dixie’s dedicated alumni, friends, benefactors and the state of Utah, that goal was accomplished in 2010.

Over that time span, a number of campaign successes were realized, including the George and Dolores Dore’ Eccles Fine Arts Center, the Mobile Dental Hygiene Clinic, the Stephen and Marcia Wade Alumni House, the Kathryn Lloyd Richards Sculpture Garden, the Russell C. Taylor Health Science Center, and the Center for Media Innovation in DSC’s communication department. In addition, many new endowed scholarships were established during those opening years of the campaign.

For more information or to make a donation, please contact DSC Vice President of Development George F. Whitehead at 435-652-7906/[email protected].

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