Bells chimed from Trinity Chapel as Dana College alumni gathered Saturday beneath a newly raised cross on the hill overlooking the former campus in Blair.
Approximately 75 people, including alumni and their families, attended a consecration ceremony for “The Dana Cross on Transformation Hill,” designed by former Dana art professor Milt Heinrich.
The 28-foot tall steel and wood cross, which was funded by donations, was erected to replace a wooden cross placed by the Dana College freshman class in 1969. That cross, which was still laying on the ground, fell a little more than a year ago.
Heinrich used the four quadrants of the cross to create a decorative element with stainless steel that reflects the sunlight.
“With the site now being Transformation Hill, I wanted the cross itself to show some transformation,” Heinrich previously told the Pilot-Tribune. “That's part of the reason for all of the glitter on it.”
Pastor Mark Degner of Christ Lutheran Church, Pastor Kip Tyler of Lutheran Church of the Master in Omaha and Father Damien Wee of St. Francis Borgia Catholic Church led the ceremony. The Dana College alumni choir sang “Beautiful Savior.”
Tyler, a Dana graduate, shared memories of the former cross, including stealing lunch trays from the food center and using them as makeshift sleds down the hill, gathering for worship services and helping friends relocate people's dorm rooms to the hill.
“We laughed and then helped them move everything back,” he said.
For Tyler, the new cross was a symbol of what is yet to come.
“Just as the cross symbolized that God does his best work in death and resurrection, I want to look at this cross and say this is the start of something new, a glimmer of new life,” Tyler said. “I don't know what that's going to look like. (Angels Share founder and campus owner) Ed (Shada) has his finger on the pulse and I don't even know if he knows what this exactly is going to look like. But I see the finger of God through this cross as a beginning point of something new and exciting that the Lord is stirring on top of this hill. I pray for his blessing to make it happen.”
Bob Coffey, president of the Dana College Foundation, noted the sentiment of the new cross. The steel i-beams used to create the cross were salvaged from Argo Hall when it was demolished last fall.
“A piece of all of us as Dana alums is right here,” he said as he held back tears.
Among the alumni in attendance were Noel and Ruby Petersen, who got engaged at the former cross on May 29, 1960. The Petersens' grandson, Tyler, was the lead donor for the project, giving $15,000 in honor of his grandparents.
“When the board approached us to be involved in this, it was really special to us to commemorate my grandparents' and everyone else's memories in a more permanent way,” Tyler Petersen said. “I don't think there is a better way to do that than what we have here.”
Following a blessing from Wee, Dana alumni closed the ceremony by singing “Hail Dana.”