The University will rededicate Memorial Oak Grove on Nov. 11 to the 30 LSU students and alumni who fought and died in World War I. Nov. 11 marks the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day.
The re-dedication ceremony will closely follow the program from the original dedication ceremony in 1926, but will also incorporate some new elements, such as concluding the ceremony by playing the song “Taps.”
The re-dedication of the memorial is thanks to the work of many people on campus who are committed to restoring the area, including biological sciences professor Gary King. King taught an honors course called “Why War?” which included discussions about memorials dedicated to the tragic events of World War I.
“More or less by accident, I happened to discover for myself that there was a World War I memorial right here on campus that I wasn’t aware of,” King said.
When King discovered that none of his students knew the oak trees behind the LSU Student Union were a memorial, he told his students that if they picked a tree and wrote about the student it memorialized, he would give them extra credit. As his students were learning about the men the oak trees memorialized, King walked around the entirety of the memorial and discovered it was in a sad state.
“A number of the markers had been buried over time,” King said. “It just was not in the kind of state that you would expect for a memorial anywhere, let alone on LSU’s campus.”
King began talking to different people around campus, including former provost Richard Koubek, about how the memorial could be restored to its former glory. King has been working in tandem with faculty and staff members across campus who are committed to the renovation and upkeep of the memorial.
Throughout the past few years, the team designed a plan to renovate the area by adding informational signs and kiosks and changing the lighting and seating areas. They also created digital components as part of the redesign, including biographies written by students and an online version which will be maintained by Hill Memorial Library.
King said he hopes the renovation and re-dedication of the memorial will reinforce the area’s importance to the University’s community.
“The ultimate idea is for this to be for the students because the guys who were memorialized were students and alumni,” King said. “My view of this is that Memorial Oak Grove belongs to LSU students — past, present and the students who will come in the future.”
King said he also hopes the families, friends and descendants of the memorialized students can become part of the ongoing tradition. So far, five families will be included in the re-dedication ceremony in November. All students are encouraged to attend the re-dedication ceremony.