The genesis of the Student Memorial Chapel and Garden project lies in a discussion between then-Dean James Barker and alumnus Ward Buzzell in 1996. Buzzell, a 1953 architecture graduate and recent retiree to Clemson, had the idea of developing a nondenominational chapel on Clemson’s campus where students would be able to partake in individual and collective prayer and reflection. The idea was well received by Barker, who felt that the chapel would provide Clemson’s campus with a reverent setting reflective of the diverse spiritual nature of the student body.
Ten years later, Buzzell’s idea began to take shape. Moved by the deaths of seven students in 2007, then-Student Body President Josh Bell championed the chapel idea, expanding the purpose of the chapel to act as a tribute to all Clemson students who died before their intended graduation date. As chair of the Student Chapel and Memorial Garden Committee, Bell and the committee raised over $175,000 solely through student activities and, occasionally, Bell would accompany President Barker to South Carolina legislative sessions to update him with the project’s progress. Upon seeing the committee’s efforts and the remarkable amount of student support for the Chapel, Barker appointed a five-member site selection committee for the project.
Today, a thirty-five member student committee leads the effort to build the chapel, and student support remains high. The Class of 2011 donated over $20,000 as part of their Class Project and an independent, student-led Creative Inquiry has identified and named over 600 students whose names are set to be engraved on the memorial wall to remember and honor their time as students. Now, more than ever, the Student Memorial Chapel and Garden is moving closer to coming to fruition.