Veterans Memorial wins award

The Veterans Memorial stands offset from the quad outside the Student Services Center. (Lariat file photo)

Lariat staff

Saddleback College’s Veterans Memorial will receive the prestigious George Washington Honor Medal Award, the highest award given by the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge‘s National Awards Program.

Founded in 1949 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the award recognizes exceptional projects that reflect the high ideals of the American spirit.

Recipients are selected based on quality and content. Award selections are based on procedures established by a jury including state Supreme Court justices, officers of national patriotic, service and civic organizations. The jury then reviews submitted nominations, according to the FFVF’s website.

“Your efforts exemplify the essence of the National Awards by promoting an understanding and appreciation for our country’s rich heritage and unique freedoms,” wrote Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge president and CEO Michael Di Yeso in a notification letter.

President Tod Burnett will be presented the award on Saturday, Feb. 11, at the Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club from the Orange County chapter of the organization. Assemblywoman Diane Harkey will be the guest speaker.

Also saluted will be the planners, builders and donors whose project paid tribute to our men and women who served or are currently serving in the armed forces.

The memorial’s concept began in 2004. It was designed by Saddleback art instructor Richard White and ceramicist Fred Olsen.

“Saddleback College is the only campus with a veterans memorial in the U.S.,” wrote Joyce Van Schaack of the OC Chapter.

With support from community members and donors, the ground broke four years later in March 2008. Saddleback’s Veteran’s Memorial was completed and dedicated at an April 2010 ceremony. Retired Saddleback president Richard McCullough chaired the memorial’s task force, with support from Lt. Col. Marty Samuel and Col. Joe Snyder, both retired officers of the U.S. Marine Corps.

Local supporters helped fund the construction of the memorial by purchasing namesakes on benches and bricks, honoring those serving in the U.S. military. Ceramics students and volunteers helped fire the clay for the construction.

The memorial was completed and dedicated in April 2010.

“The Saddleback College Veterans Memorial would not be possible without the hard work and dedication of Professor Richard White and Fred Olsen, the talented artists who designed and built the memorial with unending enthusiasm and alacrity and the more than 40 art students who helped them create this masterpiece with what humbly started from just lumps of clay,” wrote Burnett in the “Gaucho Gazette” shortly after the dedication.

Burnett also thanked the countless number of volunteers including students, administration and others who persevered to see the memorial to its fruition.

The awards presentation luncheon is from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tickets are $45 per person or $80 per couple. For more information, call 949-495-4567 or e-mail Joyce Van Schaack at

The FFVF’s educational mission is “grounded in love of country and the belief that the continuation of the American form of government can only be ensured if the American people understand the unique principles, as expressed in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights, upon which the nation was founded.”

The organization’s vision is that people gain appreciation for the purpose and relevance of these historic documents that helped frame the freedoms of our country.

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