Just before noon on Oct. 5, 2018, the sun peeked out from behind its cloud cover and past the trees lining the perimeter of The College of Idaho’s recently improved Wagers Memorial Garden, named in honor of former C of I Trustee John W. Wagers ‘57. C of I co-president Jim Everett noted the significance of the timing – the appropriateness for sunlight to grace the garden after a cloudy and foggy start to the morning, just before the garden completed its formal ribbon cutting.
“It’s no surprise the sun came out for this,” Everett said. “John is certainly still here with us.”
The Wagers Memorial Garden, located behind Strahorn Hall on the C of I’s campus, was first completed in 2007 and privately funded by the Wagers family after John Wagers passed away. John’s wife Mary Jensen Wagers ’57, who helped design the initial garden, approached the College with the idea to update the garden with a paved walkway and additional landscaping, and the Wagers family made an additional gift to the College near the end of 2017 specifically for the garden’s improvement. Work began in June 2018 on the garden project, utilizing help from the College’s facilities staff as well as a group of paid C of I students.
“I can’t think of a more appropriate time than Homecoming to celebrate this beautiful space,” said Jack Cafferty ’97, C of I’s Associate VP of College Relations.
John’s son Ken Wagers, a 1984 graduate of the College and current member of the C of I Alumni Board, spoke at the ribbon cutting event, recalling how the original garden came about after their family found unsold Ford stock among the elder Wagers’ possessions. The family decided to sell the stock and use the funds received from them to give back to the campus where John and Mary met and fell in love.
“My dad always loved the grounds here and loved working to improve them,” Ken Wagers said. “Ever since then, we always thought it would be nice to take it to the next level.”
Cafferty said before the garden’s improvements began, the space had become something of a thoroughfare, a place many simply passed through without acknowledging the purpose of area. Since the removal of the original gravel path and the installation of a paved walkway, he said he has seen members of the C of I community slow down through the garden once again, sitting on the benches and taking in quiet moments.
“What I think is special about this garden is this theme of legacy,” Cafferty said. “I think we all think about what our legacies would be when our times come. I think for John and the Wagers, it’s a sense of place and of people, providing a place that celebrates legacies of those who have come before.”
Mary Wagers had the honor of cutting the ribbon for the garden as part of the C of I’s 2018 Homecoming and Family Weekend events, formally celebrating the start of the garden’s next chapter – and the inspirations the garden can provide those who continue to pass through it on campus.
“To have a place to stop for even two minutes to reflect about the people who went before you is something very profound,” Everett said. “It is a privilege for us to have this beautiful place on our campus.”