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Dedication of rose garden Saturday honoring fraternity’s late house mother

By The Mercury

The dedication of the Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity Red Rose Garden, the first named campus landmark for a Kansas State Greek chapter, will be 10:30 am Saturday at the KSU Gardens on Denison Avenue.

“It is a tradition of Pi Kappa Phi chapters nationwide to donate a red rose garden to their universities as a campus beautification,” said Tim Lindemuth, Manhattan, a former chapter adviser who led the fundraising campaign to collect nearly $30,000 from the fraternity’s alumni for the gift.

“The rose garden also is given in memory of our longtime house mother Claudene Pillsbury who tragically died in August 2000 shortly after the men moved into their chapter house,” he said.

Among the speakers at the dedication will be April Mason, university provost and senior vice president; Scott McElwain, director of the university gardens; Jacob Wright, a senior in athletic training, Junction City, and Interfraternity Council representative; Michael Watson, Wichita, the chapter president in 2000; Anne Pillsbury Springer, a secretary in the university’s horticulture, forestry and recreation services department and daughter of Claudene Pillsbury; Chris Shade, Charlotte, N.C.,Pi Kappa Phi national director of alumni engagement; and Barbara Podschun, longtime house mother at the university’s chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. Leslie Roberts, Pillsbury’s granddaughter, will lead the singing of “The Rose,” the fraternity’s sweetheart song.

Officials in the university planning office and at the Kansas State University Foundation concurred that the red rose garden is the first such campus landmark donated and named for a K-State Greek chapter. However, the donation actually occurred in 2003 at the fraternity’s 25th anniversary.

The long, 10-year wait was due to the fact that the installation of the Bidwell Family Fountain occurred just more than a year ago, McElwain said. The red rose garden, which measures more than 80 feet from east to west, surrounds the fountain and ties together the upper and lower portions of the garden’s Phase 2 construction.

“I think when alumni and students see the beautiful this red rose garden and how much it complements the fountain plaza, they will agree it was worth the long wait,” Lindemuth said.

Officials at the fraternity’s headquarters in Charlotte, N.C., noted that the K-State red rose garden is the largest and most spectacular within the organization.

The fraternity chapter closed in 2007 due to low membership numbers. However, Lindemuth said that the reestablishment of Pi Kappa Phi at the university this fall semester has been a great source of pride for the alumni and new associate chapter members.

Springer said she and her family appreciate the fraternity’s gesture to remember the service of Pillsbury.

“She loved being house mom for the Pi Kapps. It brought her so much joy,” Springer said. “This red rose garden is a great honor to her.”

In 2000, when word that Pillsbury’s death was imminent, the family invited a few members of the fraternity to visit their house mom for the last time at Mercy Regional Hospital intensive care unit. Watson assembled the chapter in the dining room and tape recorded the members singing “The Rose.”

“As the adviser, I went with Mike, the house cook Deb Watkins and a few other students. He placed the cassette recorder on the pillow next to Mom P’s ear,” Lindemuth said. “He quietly played the tape of the men serenading her for the last time. There wasn’t a dry eye among the medical staff, family and me. It was the most touching moment I have ever witnessed.”

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