Letter to the editor: The trampling of Matilda Dodge Wilson’s grave

Between 1926 and 1929, Meadow Brook Hall was built. For those who are not aware, Meadow Brook Hall is the former country estate of Matilda Dodge Wilson and her husband Alfred Wilson. It is the ninth largest home in the US and was named a National Historic Landmark in 2012. I attended that 2012 ceremony, and it’s part of why I fell in love with Oakland University. I love the great estate and I love the history of it all. Whenever I get the opportunity to, I make my way out to the hall. But that is not the only thing that made the Wilson’s estate special. There was also the vast and expansive wilderness, which Matilda decided would be the perfect place for an institute of higher learning. Over the years, students and faculty have flocked to Oakland to enjoy not only the education but the nature and the history of it. But that is in danger, and that is because of the East Campus Development plan.

When she donated it, Matilda wished for her estate to be used and enjoyed by generations of students and scholars. She wanted people to learn in and relish in the land that had brought her and her family so much joy and rest from the hustle and bustle of life. After all, this was her country estate, and so the beauty was a big draw. I have been told countless times about the value of the green space to Oakland students, faculty, and community. You have likely read articles about its ecological importance, but there is one thing being overlooked: the historical importance.

With the proposal of the ECD Project how would Ms. Dodge Wilson feel if she found out her beautiful estate, with its rolling hills, verdant forests, and flowing rivers were to be steamrolled. Destroyed in the name of profit, in the name of capitalizing on an “underutilized asset.” I for one believe she would be astonished by the blatant disregard for her wishes. She wanted to see students learn and grow as people, not the wealthy flock to a hotel on the site of a former forest. She was a philanthropist and wanted her wealth and land to help people, to be put towards the noble pursuit of knowledge, not the greedy pursuit of endless dollars at the expense of the community.

All of this to say, if the university goes through with this plan, they will take away that nature that Matilda fell in love with and hoped that generations would fall in love with. They will destroy her whole reason for even having Meadow Brook Hall here: to get away from it all and bask in nature. If they decide to go through with this plan, they may as well destroy Meadow Brook Hall, as both are just as insulting to Matilda’s memory. While their pursuit to renovating and expanding the visitor center is a good move and I trust them to do that responsibility, the rest of the plan cannot receive such high praise. Matilda wanted libraries and classrooms, not liquor shops and hotels. She wanted students and lovers of knowledge, not people who will ignore the fact that the university exists. She wanted a school, not a landlord. This is the wrong project for our campus, and it is the wrong project for our history.