Barry McNamara  |   Published December 22, 2020

The Dahl Labyrinth

Gift from alumnus Jon Dahl ’75 and his wife will bring a labyrinth to the Monmouth campus.

MONMOUTH, Ill. – A gift to Monmouth College will help members of the College community unplug, unwind and enjoy a contemplative experience.

THE DAHLS: Barbara and Jon Dahl '75 have made a gift for the construction of a labyrinth camp... THE DAHLS: Barbara and Jon Dahl '75 have made a gift for the construction of a labyrinth campus, which is expected to be completed in 2021.Jon Dahl ’75 and his wife, Barbara, of Indianapolis have made a gift to enable Monmouth to build a labyrinth on campus. Expected to be completed in 2021, the labyrinth’s location is yet to be determined.

“We have enjoyed the labyrinth experience, and we want to share it with the Monmouth community, as a spiritual and meditative outlet,” said Jon.

A labyrinth is a meandering, often unicursal, path that has a single way that leads to a center. Experiencing a labyrinth can help Monmouth students bring issues into a spiritual context, said Jon.

“When I think about a labyrinth on Monmouth’s campus, I think about decisions a student might need to really reflect on, such as, ‘Should I pursue an MBA after I graduate?’ or ‘What are my plans after Monmouth?’ It could also be for fun. My first time in a labyrinth was on New Year’s Eve in 1998 at a monastery. I thought it would be a fun and different way to ring in the new year. And my first experience was giddy. I wanted to laugh out loud, but I didn’t. The director told me I should’ve – that it’s part of the unique labyrinth experience that every individual has.”

Monmouth Dean of the Chapel the Rev. Teri Ott said a labyrinth will become a great campus resource.

“As you enter, you’re letting go of issues in your life, of baggage, and you’re open to receiving – maybe God, maybe energy.” Barbara Dahl

“(Associate Chaplain the Rev. Jessica Hawkinson) and I look forward to facilitating individuals, student organizations, classes or visiting church groups in its use,” she said. “We live in such a noisy, distracting, digital age. This labyrinth will offer a meditative, centering practice to our campus community and will be an invaluable spiritual resource.”

The Dahls’ gift will also add to the atmosphere of Monmouth’s campus.

“We are so appreciative of this wonderful and generous gift to the College,” said Monmouth First Lady Lobie Stone. “The Dahl Labyrinth will enhance the beauty and welcoming nature of our campus in so many ways. We all – the Office of Spiritual Life, Facilities Management, Development and I – have especially enjoyed working with Jon and Barbara to bring their beautiful vision to life.”

The labyrinth experience

Barbara said the book Walking a Sacred Path: Rediscovering the Labyrinth as a Spiritual Practice, by Lauren Artress led to a rise in the construction of labyrinths.

“Labyrinths know no faith tradition,” she said. “They’re not connected to – or exclusive to – any particular faith. As you enter, you’re letting go of issues in your life, of baggage, and you’re open to receiving – maybe God, maybe energy. On the way out, you begin to think of how you’ll incorporate what you’ve received into your life, and you’re picking up the pieces you left behind, but with a new perspective.”

She said the labyrinth experience varies from person to person, and even within a single person’s visits.

“Many people might say, ‘So what?’” to the labyrinth experience, she said. “But the experience is different every time. Sometimes it’s overwhelming. You’re taking in problems to meditate upon, or maybe grieving losses – all kinds of things. It’s an opportunity for an individual to work out whatever is going on in their life.”

Supporting Monmouth

Providing a labyrinth was meaningful to the Dahls. So is supporting Monmouth College.

“My Monmouth College experience was outstanding,” said Jon. “I’d grade it an A++, even though I didn’t have that type of grades myself. But it was a really good growth experience. I expected to learn things, but it was so much more than that.”

Part of the “so much more,” he said, was “little things” along the way that Monmouth provided. Some of it was financial, with the College following through with him as a freshman, even though he initially attended the United States Coast Guard Academy.

“My Monmouth College experience was outstanding. I’d grade it an A++, even though I didn’t have that type of grades myself.” Jon Dahl

“A few days in, (the Coast Guard) found out my eyesight was not correctable,” said Jon, who came to Monmouth from now-defunct Forest View High School in Arlington Heights, Illinois. “The team cut me.”

But Monmouth didn’t, not only accepting him as a student in the fall of 1971 but making it affordable.

“They said, ‘Sure, we’ll take you. And that financial aid offer is still on the table. You can still have it.’”

Two years later in the spring of his junior year, Jon wanted to attend the London/Florence study abroad program, but he was concerned about financial aid. At first, he was told by the Illinois State Scholar organization that he could apply that scholarship to his time in Europe. Then he learned he couldn’t.

“I started to panic,” he said. “But the College said they’d make up the difference. They didn’t owe me anything, but they made it happen. That’s just indicative of what Monmouth does for its students.”

Jon also recalled getting a job in Bloomington, Illinois, when his interviewer, a top official at the company, was also a Monmouth graduate. He also appreciated traveling to an awards ceremony in Seattle to receive an honor and learning that the keynote speaker was a member of Monmouth’s Class of 1946, Vice Adm. James Stockdale.

A speech communication arts major at Monmouth, Jon spent most of his career with State Farm in Property & Casualty Underwriting Operations. His father had worked for State Farm in Des Plaines, Illinois, but Jon worked mostly in Bloomington. He and Barbara moved to Indianapolis in 2010.

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