At only 4 feet tall, the purple-blossoming vitex tree doesn’t provide much shade yet. But together with a limestone bench, the little tree creates a serene spot to remember former Wildcat, Colby McDaniel.
The Students’ Association, ACU facilities and friends of the late McDaniel partnered to build a memorial just in time for her older sister to graduate.
McDaniel died from cardiac arrest December 21, 2014 when she was a freshman. She was remembered in a Chapel in January and in March one of her friends started working on a memorial to honor her.
Steven Yang, a sophomore English major from Thailand, met McDaniel in class and said she made an impact on him.
“I just wanted a place where you could remember Colby,” Yang said.
Yang asked the university administration for permission, then asked the Students’ Association for help to fund the project. Along with McDaniel’s sister, Taylor, and some of McDaniel’s friends, Yang brainstormed ideas for the project. McDaniel’s favorite color was purple, so they knew a purple tree would be the focus of the memorial.
“She was still a person who stuck out,” Yang said. “I just want to commemorate her and always have her presence on campus.”
Yang worked with Abbey Moses, executive vice president of the Students’ Association, to make a GoFundMe donation page for the memorial. Funds from the sophomore class in the fall budget plan and the donation page raised about $2100 for the project . The Student Congress allocated $500 to complete funding at the spring budget meeting in February.
“I don’t think I was expecting so many people to want to donate money,” said Taylor McDaniel, a senior 2-dimensional design major from Fort Worth. “It’s always really overwhelming just seeing proof that people care so much.”
Taylor said the memorial is bitter sweet because she is graduating. Although she said she has many special memories at ACU, the memorial will be one more reason to come back and visit as an alumnus.
The finished memorial includes a vitex tree and a limestone bench and will soon include a plaque. The plaque will say “In memory of Colby McDaniel, 1995-2014, beloved friend and fellow Wildcat.”
Corey Ruff, executive director of facilities and campus management, said the vitex tree will do well in the West Texas environment and matches some of the same trees around the Hunter Welcome Center. The limestone bench, at 6 feet long and about 2500 pounds, matches the surrounding landscape and cost less than expected. Another factor which cut costs on the project, was planting the tree in a spot already reached by irrigation channels.
Yang said he plans to stop by the memorial when he runs the Lunsford Trail.