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 The Tornado Cross Garden

In a small courtyard in the Mabee-Simpson Library of Lyon College stands an icon sacred to the college.  The Tornado Cross, a quiet sentinel, is a testament of the toughness of the college in recovering from the worst devastation in its history.  The cross was torn off the steeple of Brown Chapel in 1973 during a tornado that completely destroyed two buildings and heavily damaged several others, striking on Maundy Thursday at 10:30 in the morning. Thankfully no one was killed.  As people wandered around in shock that day, regrouping and reorganizing, Dr. Fitzhugh Spragins, Brown Professor of Religion, ’57, found the cross and tucked it away in his office where it stayed for 22 years until his retirement in 1995.

At that time, on October 21, 1995, the cross was placed in the courtyard and dedicated by President John Griffith. Lou Ann Hance ’52 gave the granite pedestal on which it stands. The courtyard consisted of grass, beautiful Japanese maple trees, benches for meditation, and shrubs. The courtyard was enjoyed and stood quietly for many years until 2010. 

In 2010, supporters of the library wanted to improve the courtyard.  Larry Coleman, a master gardener in Batesville was consulted and he created a plan for a Japanese Meditation Garden, inspired by the existing Japanese maples.  Bids came from several landscape companies.  A carpenter, George Simon was consulted about costs for outdoor furniture.  The project was finalized and then the request went out for gifts.  Mrs. Hope Spragins led the charge. Friends and relatives of Dr. Spragins, and “Friends of the Library” completed the project. “Mitchell’s Landscaping” was hired and the project was completed in October of 2010.  Now the “Tornado Cross Garden” includes two gurgling fountains, boulders covered with moss, huge flagstones leading to the cross, wooden furniture for relaxing, and landscaping that includes exotic plants, trees, and shrubs. The Mabee-Simpson Library is proud of the Memorial Garden, and thankful to all those who contributed to it.  It is a beautiful addition to Lyon College and will give everyone many years of peace, tranquility, and harmony. The cross stands strong as does Lyon College, a tribute to the faith of the Lyon people to believe and to persevere. 


-Written by Camille Beary, class of 1980
Assistant Director of the Mabee-Simpson Library of Lyon College


President Weatherman

President Weatherman reminiscing about Dr. Spragins in the Memorial Garden





Seal of Lyon College:  “Perseverantia Omnia Vincet Deo Volente” (Perseverance conquers all, God willing)


The Mabee-Simpson Library, Lyon College
2300 Highland Road, Batesville, AR  72501

Front desk (870) 307-7205
Interlibrary Loan (870) 307-7505
Last Maintenance:  Aug 29, 2013