‘Champion for others’

Wright State dedicates garden honoring veterans and military-connected students

Wright State University and its Veteran and Military Center dedicated the Captain Shawn L. English Champion Garden, an outdoor space that honors veterans, military-connected students and those who support them.

Wright State held a dedication ceremony on Sept. 8 outside the Veteran and Military Center.

The garden is named in honor of Shawn English, a 1999 Wright State Army ROTC graduate who was killed in action in Iraq in 2006.

The ceremony included remarks from Wright State President Sue Edwards, Ph.D.; Tom Gunlock, chair of the Board of Trustees; Seth Gordon, Ph.D., director of the Veteran and Military Center; Jacob Bashore, who participated in Army ROTC with English; Anthony Heiland, president of the Wright State Veteran and Military Society; and Tricia English, Shawn English’s widow.

Tricia English said memorializing Shawn English with a campus garden space that is open to everyone is a special honor because Wright State and its Army ROTC program changed the trajectory of his life.

“It was such an instrumental place that gave him, not the confidence, but the competence that led him to believe that he could be a good officer,” Tricia English said. “He knew he had those skills, but he needed the education. It was at Wright State where he gained that competence, a belief in himself and self-efficacy.”

Located outside the Veteran and Military Center near Millett Hall and parking lot 10, the Champion Garden is open to all members of the Wright State community.

The garden celebrates those who support — or champion — veterans, including other veterans themselves, family members, faculty, staff and those who work with them.

“It’s called a Champion’s Garden because he had champions that lifted him up and allowed him to live the life that he wanted,’ said English. “Then he became a champion for others.”

The garden also provides a gathering space to help military-connected students feel that they belong at Wright State by creating opportunities for meaningful interactions. The outdoor space features comfortable patio seating and tables under a large pergola.

A bench in the garden memorializes Christopher Roche II, who worked in the Veteran and Military Center as a student and died in 2020. Roche majored in cyber security and served in the U.S. Navy before transferring to the Navy Reserves.

Community members can support the Captain Shawn L. English Champion Garden by purchasing an inscribed brick or patio paver or an inscribed dog tag. Learn more at wright.edu/VMCgarden.

Support for the Captain Shawn L. English Champion Garden has been provided by many donors including George B. Quatman Foundation, Fifth Third Bank Trustee; the Wright State President’s Office and the Wright State University Foundation; the University of Dayton; Raytheon; and Cargill.

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