Volume 90, Issue 92

Wednesday, March 19, 1997



Spending eternity six feet under their alma mater

By Laura Koot
Gazette Staff

While some students can't wait to get out of university and make their mark on the world, alumni at some American universities have reserved a spot six feet under so they will never have to bid goodbye.

Interest among alumni sparked the creation of a cemetery at Saint Mary's College and Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md. "It was initiated by an interest within our alumni that wanted to come back and be buried on a mountain behind the college," explained George Gelles, director of auxiliary services.

When the cemetery at Saint Mary's opened two years ago, there were 265 plots available. "I've sold about 110 [plots] to about 46-47 families," Gelles said. "We are opening another section which will be available in September with another 100 plots."

The cemetery at Saint Mary's is restricted to alumni, employees and members of the local parish. The money collected by the cemetery goes back into the cemetery and into the college.

"We are considered a church-related cemetery. We have to meet all the regulations of the State of Maryland and the county we are in," Gelles said.

He added the property where the cemetery sits is on a mountain and no structures could have been built there.

At the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, the cemetery was full. But one alumnus wanted to lay his ashes at the campus, explained Wayne Cocart, associate director of Virginia's alumni association.

"Leigh Middleditch was on our board of visitors and now is on our alumni association's board of governors," Cocart said, adding the attorney was responsible for the new structure.

In 1990 a stone wall was erected in the university's cemetery where there are 300 spaces within the wall to store ashes at a cost of $1,500 each. "It is specifically for faculty and then alumni can be nominated in through distinguished service," Cocart explained. "It is slowly being filled but the anticipation is it will not fill that quickly – but that is hard to say.

"Certainly my wife and I have thought of buying a spot on the wall."

The director of Western's alumni relations and development, Susan Horvath, said she was not aware of any cemeteries on Canadian campuses. "I haven't heard anybody suggest such a thing at Western," she said. "It certainly would be controversial."

Horvath suggested there may be regulations prohibiting cemeteries on Canadian campuses.

Gary DeMers, registrar for cemeteries regulations for the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations, dispelled that idea. "There is nothing that prohibits it under the Cemetery Act," he said.

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Copyright The Gazette 1997