Dana cross rendering

This rendering shows what a new cross, which will be placed on the hill between the former Dana College campus and Black Elk-Neihardt Park will look like. The cross replaces a wooden cross that was placed on the hill in the 1960s by Dana College students. The cross was found last winter after it had fallen due to rot.

A cross that once stood on a hill overlooking the Dana College campus has special meaning for Tyler Petersen and his family.

That's where Petersen's grandparents, Noel and Ruby Petersen, got engaged on May 29, 1960.

“The cross meant a lot to him because he wanted to have Christ at the center of their marriage,” Petersen said.

Noel Petersen was a pastor for 50 years, serving the last 30 years at Calvary Lutheran Church in Omaha.

That cross, which was placed on the hill just west of Rasmussen Hall near the fence line along Black Elk-Neihardt Park, was replaced by another large wooden cross made from telephone poles in 1969 by the Dana College freshman class.

Dana fallen cross

This photo taken two years ago shows the cross that once overlooked the Dana College campus. The cross was recently found on the ground, a victim of the elements.

But earlier this year, Bob Coffey, president of the Dana College Foundation, discovered the cross had fallen — snapped off at the base. Thus began an effort to replace the cross with another that could withstand the elements.

“I heard about it and I was just extremely excited about them preserving something that is so rich in history and pretty prevalent in a lot of people's memories in Dana College as well,” said Petersen, a 2010 graduate.

The estimated cost of the project is $38,000. That's a lofty goal, but thanks to Petersen, who recently donated $15,000 toward the project, it's nearly a reality.

“I wanted to make sure that it was funded without any issues,” he said.

Coffey said the foundation is now only $10,000 shy of its goal.

Former Dana College art professor Milt Heinrich, who has created other public art displays, including at Eppley Airfield and the Omaha Playhouse, has designed a 28-foot tall cross made of steel i-beams with wood inserts, which will be placed on a concrete base. Heinrich has used the four quadrants of the cross to create a decorative element.

The cross will also include another tie to Dana.

A demolition crew, tasked with tearing down Argo and Elkhorn halls, saved i-beams from the structures to be used for the cross. Con-E-Co has donated the steel fabrication work.

The new cross will also have meaning to Petersen and his family. His grandmother lived in Argo Hall as a student, while his grandfather lived in Elkhorn Hall.

“Being able to incorporate those two halls — Elkhorn and Argo — which a lot of people spent a lot of time and also incorporating it in the cross all in one I think it's going to be great addition to the new Dana College campus,” Petersen said.

Petersen, who recently joined the Dana College Foundation board, told his grandparents, who now live in Omaha, about the project.

“They were very happy that this is being done,” he said.

Donations for the cross project may be sent to the Dana College Foundation, P.O. Box 392, Blair, NE 68008.

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