Christendom announces plans for Founders Graveyard

By Kim Walter

FRONT ROYAL — In light of the two-year anniversary of its founder’s death, Christendom College has announced new plans for a Founders Graveyard.

Dr. Warren H. Carroll, who founded the college in 1977, passed away suddenly on July 17, 2011. He was buried at the school, behind Regina Coeli Hall, overlooking the Shenandoah River.

In the fall of 2012, a headstone and monument were created for the late founder, and by the fall of 2013, college officials plan to finish beautification and expansion of the site.

Timothy O’Donnell, Christendom’s president, said he has wanted to create a founders memorial of some kind for years.

“I’ve always thought it was appropriate to have our founders buried here,” he said, looking out over the area that will be the Founders Graveyard. “They helped start this school at a very difficult time for the church and nation.”

The site currently consists of Carroll’s grave, a small bench and a few flowers. It is on the edge of a field behind the school’s main building, and has a clear view of the river.

O’Donnell said it serves as a perfect place for students and staff to reflect and find peace.

Carroll’s wife, Anne, has requested that she also be buried in the graveyard. O’Donnell said the remaining four founding faculty members, as well as their spouses, also have expressed interest in being buried on campus.

“When we had the service for Dr. Carroll, his wife walked over, got one look at the river and gasped,” he said. “She loved it.”

Even without the picturesque view of the river, the view of the campus is nostalgic to alumni — especially those who attended at the college’s beginning. The buildings within sight have been spruced up a bit, but not much, the president said.

“Looking out over the field and toward campus, this is very much what the original view would’ve looked like,” he said. “I think this spot makes sense as a place for those who founded this institution.”

The plans for the new graveyard involve the construction of a stone archway and custom iron fence. O’Donnell said he also hopes to install a fountain feature around the site, to give it a “living water” feel. Work is expected to begin on the site by the end of August so that it can be dedicated and blessed during Homecoming Weekend in October.

In order to do that, though, some fundraising will have to take place.

The estimated cost of the project is $40,600. O’Donnell said he’s mostly counting on the support of alumni, but is also reaching out to students, staff, faculty, benefactors and friends of Christendom.

Because the school sits on more than 125 acres and has a church on the premises, O’Donnell said there wasn’t an issue with getting permission to house a graveyard.

He added the idea itself isn’t completely unheard of.

“I definitely know of some schools with a religious base that have a piety toward those who made the institution what it is today,” he said. “I think it’s a great way to remember.”

For now, the size of the graveyard could likely hold 10 to 15 lots, which would work for the founding faculty and spouses. However, O’Donnell said he’s already heard from a few retired faculty members who are interested in being included.

The school was able to pay for Carroll’s headstone – O’Donnell said they had to step up given that Carroll’s death was unexpected and no plans had been made. O’Donnell added that the school might be able to help fund headstones of other founders.

Donations for the project, which are tax-deductible, will be accepted until Aug. 17.

Those interested in donating to the project can visit Christendom.edu/gift and designate the gift to the Founders Graveyard Project. For more information contact Tom McFadden at tmcfadden@christendom.edu.

Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or kwalter@nvdaily.com