Alex Crawford, sophomore, came to Knox wanting to find a way to pay tribute to Elizabeth Eckford, one of the Little Rock Nine who had attended Knox for a year in 1959 and 1960.
Crawford went to Central High School in Little Rock, the same school Eckford had integrated. When he mentioned to a former teacher and internship mentor that he was going to Knox, the teacher suggested Crawford look into a way to honor Eckford on campus.
“(The teacher) knows Dr. Eckford really well, they’ve met a lot, they talk a lot,” Crawford said. “He’s like, ‘You know, it would be really cool if you go to Knox and if you’re able to dig something up there in relation to Elizabeth Eckford (…) Maybe even think about getting a flower garden put in or something.'”
During his freshman year, Crawford was surprised to see that Eckford would be the speaker at Fall Term convocation in 2018.
At convocation, Eckford was awarded an honorary degree. She gave a talk at the Orpheum Theater the evening after convocation.
Crawford got to meet Eckford at a dinner held on campus with her, also on the day of convocation. He noticed that most of the people invited were upperclassmen who were also active on campus. His connection to Little Rock and Central High gave him an in.
“Everybody was going around the table talking about where they were from and how much her struggle had impacted them (…) I introduce myself and say ‘I’m from Little Rock, Arkansas’ at which point Dr. Eckford goes ‘Ahhh.’ Things went pretty well from there,” Crawford said.
Crawford’s teacher had suggested a garden because Eckford is an enthusiastic gardener. She still lives in Little Rock, not far from Central High. She helped choose some of the plants for the garden too, Crawford said.
“I got to talk to her and I asked her about the idea,” Crawford said. “She thought it was a really good one. I got her approval and then it was really just kind of getting it figured out with the college at that point.”
He found help from Jennifer Gallas in Alumni Relations, and was able to get the project rolling. Grounds installed the garden last spring.
The garden is on the north side of the HOPE Center, along South Street. The plaque, which Crawford helped write, was installed during Fall Term.