The Peace Garden at Fresno State
At Fresno State we believe service and honor are just two keystones to a fully rounded educational experience. In sharing that philosophy with our community, we’ve memorialized some shining examples of selflessness and service in the Peace Garden.
In the midst of Fresno State's daily bustle and hum is a stretch of tranquility that invites all visitors to take a moment for reflection and thought.
The Peace Garden, located just north of the Madden Library, is a treasured place at the university. It was established as an inspiring reminder that one life devoted to nonviolence and activism can make a crucial difference in the lives of many.
The garden's soaring trees, gently sloping grass berms and cobblestone paver walkways form the graceful surroundings for the memorials honoring people of international influence. The garden's beginnings stem from the Oct. 2, 1990 dedication of a large bronze bust of Mohandas K. Gandhi, leader of the Indian independence movement in the early 20th century. Gandhi, often referred to as Mahatma Gandhi, was a proponent of nonviolence to achieve social and political change and a key figure in the human rights movement.
Dr. Sudarshan Kapoor, now a professor emeritus of social work education, led the effort to establish the Peace Garden. The Gandhi memorial, after all, had been a true project of cooperation achieved through the commitment of students, faculty, staff and administrators as well as financial support from numerous community organizations. After the dedication, a Peace Garden Advisory Committee was formed, with Kapoor as chairman, to work toward making the garden a reality.
By 1996, a second statue was dedicated – of Cesar Chavez, leader of the United Farm Workers and a civil rights activist. In 1999, a statue of prominent civil rights leader the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was unveiled. And, in 2006, a sculpted likeness of pioneer social reformer and humanitarian Jane Addams was dedicated.
Kapoor said he believes that the garden is unique: "No other campus or university has this – particularly a tribute to such great luminaries and advocates of peace and nonviolence – in one place."
He also said that he hopes the Peace Garden reminds students and future generations of the pivotal and selfless contributions that these leaders made for the benefit of others. And, Kapoor pointed out, Gandhi was a tremendous influence on King and Chavez. The garden, in its own way, seeks to inspire students and other visitors to embrace mutual respect, compassion and tolerance more fully in their own lives.
By 2009, the garden underwent a landscaping renovation to complement the new appearance of the remodeled Madden Library. The height and breadth of the library's dazzling north-facing glass wall reflects the garden's serene atmosphere.
The latest additions to the garden include the Dean Richard D. Ford Memorial Grove, located at the west end. Ford, who died in 1997, was the first dean of the then-School of Social Work, from 1972 to 1994. He worked to improve the cultural diversity of students in health and social work and supported the Peace Garden, which was established during his term as dean.
The garden also now has two Canary Island pine trees that are dedicated to two alumni who were killed in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks: Todd Beamer and Navy Lt. Cmdr. Vincent Tolbert.
The garden is adjacent to the Free Speech Area and a Native Plant Garden that incorporates plants and materials used by regional Native Americans in basket weaving. The library's decor, in fact, includes basket-weaving designs.
The Peace Garden is a living, breathing place, where hope and contemplation are the seeds of equality and understanding.
As Kapoor has said: "It adds to the beauty of our campus."