Future Eagle Scouts Choose St. Andrews for Beautification Projects & Restore Writers’ Path Benches

Written by Wendy A Varisco

By: Mary McDonald ’79 & Alex Varisco ’18

If you visit campus to see the fall colors anytime soon, you may notice beautiful new benches and scenic improvements in the Flora Macdonald Garden.

The Flora Macdonald Memorial Garden was dedicated in April of 1996 as part of the St. Andrews Centennial Celebration marking 100 years since the founding of Flora Macdonald College in 1896. It honors the students, faculty, and staff of FMC and is a reminder of the beautiful garden created by Dr. Vardell on the Red Springs campus. Designed by Gus Purcell, the FMC Memorial Garden is located on land once owned by the MacKinnon family, and the funding for the garden came from N.C. author Ben Dixon MacNeill to honor his mother, Flora MacKinnon MacNeill, a graduate of FMC.

Chris Walters, son of Assistant Athletic Director Jim Walters, has taken on the replacement of 6 benches in the garden for his Eagle Scout Project. The benches were part of the historic Marion Cannon Memorial Writers’ Path, damaged over the years due to weather and the aging process. Dedicated in 1996, the Writers’ Path was a project named for N.C. Poet Marion Cannon, a frequent guest at the Writers’ Forum, and St. Andrews Press supporter.  The first two benches were dedicated to Cannon and Sam Ragan, Poet Laureate of North Carolina, and another constant friend of St. Andrews. Over the years, the number of benches on campus grew to nearly 50, honoring writers from Ron Bayes to Buckminster Fuller, Jeanette McClelland to Alan Bunn.

Chris built and installed the benches for his project and added six new writers’ plaques. These include one in memory of past Librarian and FMC Garden Planner, Elizabeth Anthony Holmes. Betty was the guiding force in developing and establishing the FMC Memorial Garden, a place where she hoped people could find quiet contemplation amidst the benches, arbor, gazebo, trees, and plants. The
other new garden benches honor the following: Poets Harriet Doar and Ezra Pound, Dr. Robert F. Davidson, Author and Dean of St. Andrews from 1962-1971, and Sam Ragan. The last bench is one honoring John Charles McNeill, N.C. Journalist/Poet, and native of nearby Riverton. It makes for a lovely group of creative and caring souls.

Chris is a member of Troop 420, sponsored by Laurinburg Presbyterian Church, and it is one of the state’s leading troops for turning out Eagle Scouts. Chris said, “I really liked being able to do my Eagle Scout Project at St. Andrews and would like to thank Mr. Glenn Batten for making that possible. Overall, most things went well and according to plan throughout the project. I hope that St. Andrews and visitors to the university will enjoy the benches for years to come.”

(Before & after of benches restored by Chris Walters)

Also a member of Troop 420, Blake Dean, son of Maintenance Technician Craig “Bull” Dean, is landscaping and cleaning up the area on Chapel Island, former home of the Belk Bell Tower. The Island now remains undeveloped after the Bell Tower’s removal due to damages from Hurricane Florence, but Blake has special plans to restore this unique place on campus.

(Blake Dean working on Chapel Island) 

So far, he has removed weeds, added mulch, and removed two existing benches that he is now in the process of restoring for seating areas. Blake also plans on installing a third bench, as well as planting more trees and shrubbery on the island.

Achieving the title of Eagle Scout is not easily earned, and it is the final step of a Boy Scout’s journey, exemplifying esteemed individual leadership. Within their community-based projects, scouts learn the importance of scheduling, budgeting, project-based management, and more on their way to this prestigious recognition.  Chris is 13 years old and in the 8th grade at The O’Neal School in Southern Pines, NC. Blake is 17 years old and a Senior at Marlboro Academy this year.

Thank you, Chris and Blake, for your hard work and for choosing St. Andrews as your site for these special projects. The next time you are on campus, be sure to visit the garden and island to see all their hard work and the new benches and plaques on the Writers’ Path.