College cemeteries

After spending more than a decade employed in higher education administration, I know that colleges and universities can be wonderful places to work. I had never though of them as ideal places to spend eternity, however, until I visited the Williams College Cemetery in Williamstown, Massachusetts over the weekend.

I was there to do a little genealogy volunteering, tracking down a gravestone to photograph as requested by a genealogist on the Find-A-Grave website. The Williams College Cemetery is tucked away on a back street with a (believe it or not) 19-mile-an-hour speed limit, partially hidden by a stand of pine trees.

The people buried there clearly had a deep bond with Williams. Why else would you chose the grounds of a college as your final resting place? While rules may have changed over time, plots are available today only for Williams College’s “tenured faculty and faculty with emeritus status, their spouses or domestic partners, and unmarried children.”

Kenyon College officials placed a similar restriction on campus burials in the mid-1800s, according to a history of Kenyon’s burying ground that I read earlier today. While faculty and alumni could be buried there, staff could not. This policy change was of interest to me, because two of my ancestors (at least) worked on staff at Kenyon after emigrating from England in the early 1800s. I am still nailing down their exact death dates, but they clearly died too late to qualify for burial at the college.

Given my career and ancestral background, these college cemeteries have piqued my curiosity. I did a quick search of Find-A-Grave for college-affiliated cemeteries and turned up, among others, cemeteries at Denison College and William & Mary. Does your alma mater have a cemetery? If so, are there restrictions on which members of the community can be buried there? Would you want your alma mater to be your final resting place? If so, why?


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