Students may have noticed a new addition to the University of Dallas campus recently: a solid stone bench next to the Cap Bar patio with lyrics from Neutral Milk Hotel’s “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” engraved into the backrest.
The bench is part of a memorial dedicated to Andrew Esherick, class of ’12, who died two years ago on April 26, 2015.
Margaret Claahsen, class of ’15, organized the fundraising page which raised $5,050 to create the memorial.
She was a close friend of Andrew, his wife Emma (’15), and their two daughters.
Since the girls, now 2 and 3, are too young to remember their father, Claahsen hopes that the memorial will serve as a place for them to come and see how much their father was loved.
“This was his home for so long,” Claahsen said. “This is where he found himself, [where] he established community. He was one of those persons[sic]… A lot of professors say they learned more from Andrew than he learned from them. He was someone who changed people around him.”
Claahsen reached out to UD’s executive vice president, Dr. John Plotts, last spring to discuss a memorial, and he was supportive of the idea.
“The memorial not only adds beauty to the campus, but communicates a message that we are a family, and we remember those who had a significant impact on our lives,” Plotts said via email.
The 1400 lb bench is not just for decoration, but is intended for people to sit on. Stone was chosen in order for the memorial to stand the test of time.
“We liked the idea of a bench because it invites conversation and community,” Claahsen said.
Claahsen, who made the majority of the creative decisions regarding the memorial, said that it will soon include a stone with Andrew’s name and an engraving of his profile holding a guitar, as he did so often in life, as well as the Memorare, his favorite prayer.
There will also be a mesquite tree planted at the site of the memorial. The area around the flagstones has several newly planted ivies so that when they spread, they will cover the drains, an idea Claahsen credits to President Keefe.
“Mesquite trees are unique to Texas,” Claahsen said. “He was a DC kid who visited as a prospie. His mom was like, ‘Wow, this campus is hideous,’ but he thought it was gorgeous. He loved the mesquite trees. Maybe it’s because so many of them grow sideways and you can sit on them in weird ways.”
Claahsen chose the quote from “In the Aeroplane over the Sea” because it was Esherick’s favorite song.
“It’s his favorite song, but also it seemed to match the life that he ended up living,” Claahsen said. “It just matched him in so many ways. Like, ‘Let us lie in the sun and count every beautiful thing we can see.’ It was the essence of Andrew to be enraptured by beauty constantly.”
Esherick, an English major with an Italian concentration, was a beloved member of the university community since his freshman year. After he graduated, he lived in a condo near campus with his wife.
Many students remember seeing him with his baby daughter Charlotte strapped to his chest as he walked around the campus.
He was a staple of Friday Nights, and continued to organize them in the years after he graduated, bringing his guitar and his vast knowledge of folk songs with him, encouraging others to sing along. Often when the weather was bad, he would invite the Friday Night crowd to his condo.
Claahsen recalled one night where there was snow on the ground. Esherick was hosting Friday Nights in his condo, but marched out barefoot in the snow, playing “When the Saints go Marching In.” Others followed him out, though they at least wore shoes.
There will be a dedication ceremony this Saturday, April 29, at 11 a.m. at the site of the memorial.