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Students in the physical therapy department walk past the sign dedicating the labyrinth to the anatomical donors to the College of Health Sciences.
Students in the physical therapy department walk past the sign dedicating the labyrinth to the anatomical donors to the College of Health Sciences.

Remembering the silent teachers

Photos by Ashley Barnas, David Levandoski

Labyrinth dedicated to anatomical donors

The newest addition to the University of Delaware’s Science, Technology and Advanced Research (STAR) Campus is a space designed for reflection — a labyrinth dedicated to the anatomical donors who have donated their bodies to the College of Health Sciences.

The space is dedicated to the “silent teachers” of students in the Doctor of Physical Therapy program. In a textbook, students are typically presented with ideal or normal anatomy. Through working with a diverse group of cadavers, students experience anatomical variability — differences in structures mainly caused by genetics.

Students in the Class of 2018 wanted to show their gratitude and recognize the impact the donors made on their education. Daniel Chapman and Tyler Tice, who got their doctorates in 2018, led a student committee that organized a memorial ceremony for the donors in spring 2018. Family members were invited to the event, which is now held annually each spring.

The new labyrinth (lower right) at UD’s Science, Technology and Advanced Research (STAR) Campus is located outside the curved glass in front of the Health Sciences Complex on South College Avenue.
The new labyrinth (lower right) at UD’s Science, Technology and Advanced Research (STAR) Campus is located outside the curved glass in front of the Health Sciences Complex on South College Avenue.

Chapman, who is currently an orthopedic resident in the Delaware Physical Therapy Clinic, said the students wanted to go one step further. He approached department faculty and Dean Kathleen S. Matt with the idea of a permanent memorial — a space where students, faculty, staff and the community can pause and reflect. 

“A labyrinth was chosen because it promotes the concept of balance and the understanding of dangers to one’s community when balance is not achieved,” Chapman said during a dedication ceremony held in September.

Similar to a maze, the labyrinth has a defined path for patrons to follow to a center. But while a maze includes choices of paths and direction, the labyrinth has only one path to follow which leads to the center and then back out again.

“The quiet and peaceful journey of the labyrinth represents the journey inward to one’s true self and back again into the world,” Chapman said. “What better way to serve our community than by establishing a permanent memorial that not only honors but also serves the students and community around us.”

Daniel Chapman, who got his doctorate in physical therapy in 2018 (center) led the student committee that proposed a permanent memorial to UD’s anatomical donors.
Daniel Chapman, who got his doctorate in physical therapy in 2018 (center) led the student committee that proposed a permanent memorial to UD’s anatomical donors.

Ellen Wruble Hakim is the director of the doctoral program in physical therapy.

“Every day we walk into the building, past this labyrinth, it helps us to remember what’s important,” Wruble Hakim said. “It helps us remember our community. It helps us remember our friends and our family. And it helps us continue to strive to be the best we can be and to make those people proud who contributed to it.”

Matt spoke at the dedication. 

“The whole idea that this came from the students with a real intention and a real purpose grounds this whole site in what our purpose is, and that is to improve the healthcare and health of all Delawareans and the nation,” Matt said. “When you see the heart of the students, you know the future is in good hands.”

About the labyrinth

The hardscape labyrinth surrounded by lush plantings is located in front of the curved glass on the north end of the Health Sciences Complex, 540 S. College Avenue. It is the third labyrinth in Newark, and the 19th in the state of Delaware.  

Sikora Wells Appel designed the project, which is surrounded by plantings by Moon Landscaping. Funding was through the College of Health Sciences and donations. DelleDonne & Associates will maintain the labyrinth.

Visitors to the labyrinth are asked to park in the patient/visitor parking spaces in the lot next to the building.

Anatomical donation program

Anatomical gift donations are used exclusively for anatomical education and research by physical therapy students. UD receives an average of 15 gifts per year for this important program. Interested donors should visit the program’s website, or contact Lisa Shakespeare, at lshakes@udel.edu or 302-831-8521.

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