The Collegian
Tuesday, February 07, 2023

Can I live on campus forever?

Oddly enough, you can.

If you are a student, alumnus, faculty or staff member, trustee or immediate family member of any of those people, you can choose to have your body rest eternally in the University of Richmond's Columbarium and Memorial Garden.

A Columbarium is a burial vault for human ash remains and is derived from a Latin word meaning "a place where doves nest." The Columbarium to the left of the Cannon Memorial Chapel has 2,884 niches that can each hold two urns. People can also have their ashes scattered around the memorial fountain in the memorial garden.

The memorial garden and Columbarium were proposed and approved by the Board of Trustees and built by 2001.

If you look closely at the granite walls of the garden, you will see the names, birthdates and dates of death of the few people who are using the Columbarium. The plaque next to the fountain also has the names of those whose ashes have been scattered around the fountain.

The Office of the Chaplaincy maintains the Columbarium. People who want to look into the Columbarium as a burial option can go to the Wilton Center and talk to Columbarium Director Josh Dickerson and others who are designated as Columbarium Sales Agents.

Only those interested in the process can find out the cost because agents are unable to advertise it, Dickerson said. The funds raised from the sale of niches and scatterings are used for the burial, with 10 percent going to maintain the garden. Any remaining money is given to the chaplaincy, said Louie Love, director of administrative services for the Office of Business and Finance. Love was director of the Columbarium from 2005 until its care was taken over by the chaplaincy.

The chaplaincy is subject to Virginia laws on cemeteries and makes an annual report to the state.

Once someone decides to purchase a niche or be scattered and meets with an agent, he or she signs a contract with the university and is guaranteed a niche. People can also have a one-page summary about their lives and why they decided to be buried at the university placed in the university's records.

There are some other schools with cemeteries and Columbariums, such as the universities of Virginia, Notre Dame and North Carolina-Chapel Hill, as well as various schools in Florida, Love said.

Love said the hope was that the niches would not fill up for the next 100 years. The Columbarium is meant to be long term.

Now, not only can you live on campus forever, but also, every time you walk by or sit in the garden next to the chapel, you can know you're not alone.

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