Pathway to memorialize Kelly Ward

Proposed trail on grassy hillside on campus will wind up to lookout spot to encourage connection, conversation



The path will form a double helix to reflect conversation. Walkers will wind up where they started, having traveled a different way.

VONNAI PHAIR, Evergreen reporter

After her passing in 2018, Kelly Ward, a professor and celebrated member of the Washington State University community, will be commemorated with the creation of the Kelly Ward Memorial Pathway.

According to a post by the WSU Association for Faculty Women, The WSU administration has set aside a location close to campus to dedicate for the pathway. Additional money to support the planning, design and construction of the site are needed. Once sufficient funds are acquired, the project will begin in 2020.

Ward served as a mentor to Glenys Hill, professor and director of the WSU Field Based Superintendent’s Certification Program. Hill said Ward took the initiative to schedule walks whenever the two had the chance to meet and collaborate on research.

“She so loved nature,” Hill said. “She was never happier than she was when she was out walking.”

Ward affected WSU’s community with her passion for teaching in the College of Education. Before her death, she taught numerous classes including Critical Issues in Higher Education and Student Affairs and held a seminar focusing on higher education. Ward also focused on research on higher education and the integration of teaching, research and service.

Ben DeRubertis, architect of the Kelly Ward Memorial Pathway, said its design reflects Ward’s characteristics.

Ben deRubertis, the architect of the memorial pathway, drew his inspiration from descriptions of Ward’s character from her close friends and relatives.

“A lovely path built in the city that she adored is a very fitting way to remember this woman who, first of all, was completely infatuated with nature,” Hill said. “[Ward] was so committed to being healthy and wanted the very best for others in terms of being happy, healthy, and meeting their capacity.”

According to the Association for Faculty Women, the memorial will commemorate Ward by focusing on four characteristic elements.

“It was really obvious after speaking with [family members], they were remembering some really interesting and wonderful character traits of [Ward]’s which really served as the foundation for our design,” deRubertis said. “One of the ones in particular that we were aware of from the very early going was her focus on lifting others up and really seeing other people and trying to help them realize their full potential.”

The first element is the connection. The purpose of the pathway is to help people connect. The path will be wide enough for people to walk side by side, encouraging conversation, according to the post.

It should also lift people up. From the entrance of the path to the top of the site, the path will serve as a viewpoint of the Palouse. The path and its surrounding areas will be filled with contrasting, vibrant colors.

The path will be made from materials gathered in and local to Pullman and the surrounding Palouse and accessible to persons with mobility issues by maintaining a five percent slope and maintained grounds.

Susan Skavdahl, a close friend and colleague of Ward, said she would have loved a pathway like the one being built in her honor on campus.

“I think she would really appreciate something like that, a place to be quiet, a place to meet with friends,” Skavdahl said.

The current design for the path is a helix. The helix signifies the progression of a conversation; while walking the path, visitors will arrive back at the same starting point, but from a different route.

“We thought this is a great way to sort of explore the dynamics of kinds of conversations you have [when] walking,” deRubertis said.

Trees along the path will serve as milestones to mark the progress of path-goers. Wildflowers will also accompany the memorial, and at the point of arrival will be sunflowers and other native species of flowers.

The path will be widened at points of changes in direction, which will allow visitors to gather and converse or rest.

Markers in the form of up to 12 split and polished large boulders will line the path at various points. The polished sides of the boulders will be adorned with text or graphics. The memorial will also feature a large lawn area at the entrance to the path. Visitors can use this area to further converse, read or play games.

Designers imagine Kelly Ward Memorial Pathway to be the first step towards the expansion of the WSU Arboretum. The arboretum and pathway will be close enough to campus for students and faculty to enjoy for jogging, walking to class and socializing.