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Newly donated monument at Ringling College honors veterans

The monument, called Testimonies (Resilience), was formerly displayed in Patriot Plaza at Sarasota National Cemetery.

Ringling College President Larry Thompson and Veterans Club president Marcus Adkins unveil the monument.
Ringling College President Larry Thompson and Veterans Club president Marcus Adkins unveil the monument.
Photo by Ian Swaby
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A monument to military veterans called Testimonies (Resilience) was unveiled inside Ringling College's Ulla Searing Student Center, on April 28.

The gift from The Patterson Foundation was relocated from Patriot Plaza, a 2,800-seat outdoor amphitheater that opened at the Sarasota National Cemetery in 2014 and was created through a partnership between The Patterson Foundation and the National Cemetery Administration.

The photograph by Sean Carpenter depicts Specialist Dean Oldt greeting his father, Dennis Oldt, as he returns home to Philadelphia in 2008 after serving in Iraq.

The monument also features quotes from Kathy Sargent, author of the chapter “Army Mom, Serving in the Silent Ranks” from the 2009 book “Love You More Than You Know” by Janie Reinart and Mary Anne Mayer.

Debra Jacobs, president and CEO of The Patterson Foundation, said the foundation’s goal with Patriot Plaza was to serve veterans in a lasting way, through an outdoor exhibition honoring service and sacrifice.

“We created an endowment to make sure that Patriot Plaza will look as wonderful in the year 4,500 as it does today,” she said.

However some of the photographs in the Testimonies series were becoming delaminated due to the humidity, requiring them to be replaced. 

The 16 images of Testimonies were chosen by artists who culled through over 6,000 photographs, from the Civil War to the War in Afghanistan, Jacobs said.

Some were still in excellent condition, Jacobs said, and after being removed from the Georgia white marble in which they were embedded, they could be repurposed for other locations. 

As a result, many have been donated to community partners including Goodwill Manasota, the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus, and now Ringling College.

Ringling College President Larry Thompson and The Patterson Foundation President and CEO Debra Jacobs
Photo by Ian Swaby

The unveiling began with a ceremony held outside the Ulla Searing Student Center. Student Natalie Perez sang the "Star-Spangled Banner," while poems were read by students Alyssa Quidachay and Marcus Adkins.

Adkins served four years in the military, including as a combat photographer in Operation Enduring Freedom from 2010 to 2011. He said when he returned home he missed the experience of greeting his family since he was being evacuated due to a medical issue.

Adkins is also president of the college’s Veteran’s Club and said the photograph embedded in the school’s new monument was heartwarming to see.

“For me it's absolutely amazing,” Adkins said. “Being a senior and the president of the club, and actually having this my last year, is absolutely mind-blowing, and I'm sure the veterans that come after me will appreciate it as well."

The right location

Scott Lempe, a veteran and consultant for The Patterson Foundation, said the foundation chose Ringling College because it reaches out specifically to veterans and their families through its Military/Veteran Affiliated Services department.

Lisa Goss, assistant director of financial aid and veteran services at the college, said the department helps chart students' transitions from military life to civilian life and promotes resilience.

“The life of military-connected families is one of constant change, and sacrifices are made – missed birthdays, missed anniversaries,” she said.

The department offers assistance in applying for benefits, provides information on education benefits and college processes, and connects students with resources such as advising, counseling services, and financial aid.

The college also participates in the Yellow Ribbon Program, which provides additional financial assistance to veterans and dependents who already qualify for all standard benefits and reach the VA's annual tuition limit.

Ringling College president Larry Thompson said the college has over 20 students who are veterans from multiple branches, as well as about 50 students who are dependents of veterans and are utilizing VA educational benefits. He said many faculty and staff have served in multiple branches of the military.

“One of the things that is often taught in the military is resilience, because that helps those people cope with adversity, adapt to change, and overcome what seem to be insurmountable challenges," he said. "That describes, I think, military service.”

Goss said the monument’s presence itself serves the school.

“It's all part of that connection,” she said. “When they feel they're connected, they are so much more successful in college overall. We're setting them up for success by connecting them with the right resources.”



Ian Swaby

Ian Swaby is the Sarasota neighbors writer for the Observer. Ian is a Florida State University graduate of Editing, Writing, and Media and previously worked in the publishing industry in the Cayman Islands.

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