Posted November 7, 2013 by Cooper Point Journal in News

The History Of The Memorial

By Ray Still

Ten years after the her death, the Rachel Corrie memorial was dedicated in ceremony on October 23, 2013. The reflective stainless-steel pyramid is the first permanent memorial at Evergreen to the student activist who was killed by an Israeli army bulldozer in the Gaza Strip in 2003 while protesting the demolition of Palestinian houses.

“Through these ten years, Evergreen students have been moved by Rachel’s story,” Cindy Corrie said at the dedication.“A good number come to intern withus at the Rachel Corrie Foundationfor Peace and Justice; others by becoming deeply involved with social justice issues about which Rachel cared; and more to do their part to learn about the issues that took Rachel to Gaza.”

Other speakers included Michael Zimmerman, the vice president of academic affairs and provost of Evergreen, faculty members Anne Fischel and Therese Saliba, artist and Evergreen alum Ross Matteson (‘80), and students Elissa Goss, Zayd Zaytoon, Elizabeth Moore, and Khristina Erickson, who read from Rachel’s own works and words. President of the college Les Purce was scheduled to speak at the dedication, but was unable to attend due to a personal emergency.

“Remembering Rachel, the person, is the special duty of Olympia, her hometown, and Evergreen,” Zimmerman said when he accepted the memorial on behalf of the college. “This beautiful piece of work is an especially appropriate way to remember Rachel.”


The original poster of Rachel Corrie from the 2003 memorial. Provided by Therese Saliba, Anne Fischel, and Larry Mosqueda.

The Rachel Corrie Memorial Planning Committee

Matteson’s art piece may be the first permanent memorial to honor Rachel Corrie at Evergreen, but there have been other student and public-made memorials on campus since her death.

“People just started to create a memorial to her in the library lobby,” said Saliba, a member of Evergreen faculty and of the Rachel Corrie Memorial Planning Committee. “People put flowers and a poster to her and candles. We got letters from people all over the world, and we had art about Rachel that was drawn by local school children. We had all kinds of stuff that was coming in, and people would just put it out there in the library lobby. It was actually quite large.”

The makeshift memorial was eventually moved to the Seminar II building. “It was a space where people could see all this material and reflect and write on the meaning of Rachel’s story,” Saliba commented. The memorial stayed in room E3105 for “two to three years, and then we were asked to move it because it was going to be used as classroom space,” she said. “So we put a lot of that in storage, and decided to think about something more permanent.”

In 2008, the Rachel Corrie Memorial Planning Committee emailed President Purce about wanting to install a permanent memorial. They introduced Matteson’s idea of the memorial, the pyramid and dove, which had been constructed earlier that year. Matteson and the committee’s original plan for the memorial was to place it in a garden on campus, and did not include a glass case. The committee also hoped to present during the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice’s ‘Peace Works’ event, which brought speakers to Evergreen’s campus to discuss the situation in Palestine, in April of 2011.

“All we heard back from the administration was that they were working on a memorial policy,” said Saliba. “In terms of the politics behind it, that was all the feedback we got. That put this proposal on hold.”


An original poster of the play, “My Name Is Rachel Corrie.”

College Policy for Memorials

The college’s current policy towards memorials and naming college buildings was enacted in 2011. Before that, the college did not have an official policy, according to college staff.

“The Board of Trustees clarified their delegation of authority that they operate under, to say that naming belongs to the Board of Trustees,” said John Carmichael, Deputy to the President and Secretary to the Board of Trustees. Additionally, the vice president of college advancement is allowed the power to approve memorials on campus that are accompanied with a monetary gift, and the president is allowed the power to approve memorials that are not accompanied by monetary gift, according to the policy.

The policy outlines three different types of memorials – a plaque on campus, a bench with a plaque, and a memorial tree. Matteson’s memorial does not match the criteria set by the college for memorials, and Carmichael and Lee Hoemann, the vice president for college advancement, agree that Matteson’s memorial was ultimately not affected by the college’s memorial policy – instead, the memorial was considered a gift of art.

According to the college’s memorial policy, a gift of art is supposed by approved by Evergreen’s Campus Arts Advisory Committee before it is put on campus. “But then we get into the position of the Arts Committee making a decision whether or not something is good art or not, when it is related to something that is very emotional or a memorial,” said Hoemann, who is also on the Arts Advisory Committee. “So we said that we were not going to do that.” Hoemann said that it fell to President Purce to decide to install Matteson’s memorial. Purce was not available for comment.

Purce approved of Matteson’s piece in May of 2013, but asked the committee to place the memorial inside of a building. The committee proposed to place the memorial between the Flaming Eggplant and the Student Activities offices, which they saw as a very well suited placement for the memorial.

The committee is currently working on a proposal to make a Japanese Tea and Memorial Garden on campus, which will also feature a memorial bench dedicated to Rachel Corrie.

The Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and JusticeMemorial-by-Ross-Matteson-web

The Rachel Corrie Foundation approved the donation of $5,000 to Matteson in 2008, to cover “the most basic costs of the artwork,” said Cindy Corrie, President of the Rachel Corrie Foundation. More recently, in June 2013, the foundation’s board approved to accept money donations to help cover the cost of the glass case and the installment of the artwork in the CAB.

However, Cindy and Craig Corrie (Rachel Corrie’s father) had nothing to do with the memorial on campus, and even abstained their votes when the Rachel Corrie Foundation voted to fund Matteson’s memorial. “As a family, we have always been connected to Evergreen in some way, because it was a part of the community we really liked,” said Cindy Corrie. “It was young when we came here in 1975, and it was still really controversial in the community. But after Rachel was killed, the college was particularly helpful to us, especially certain faculty.”

“But we never felt, as a family, that it was our position to advocate for any kind of memorial on the campus, or even in the community,” she continued. “We are glad that Rachel is remembered in all the different ways that she is, but there just was not a moment when we thought, ‘There needs to be a memorial on the Evergreen campus, and we are going to make it happen.’”

To that, Craig commented, “It took ten years, but so what? It came together, and it worked right.”

Cindy agreed, and said, “In some ways it makes it more meaningful. It says that ten years later, this story still resonates.”