Emory Report
December 11, 2006
Volume 59, Number 14



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December 11 , 2006
Quilt on the Quad honors lost loved ones

By kim urquhart

The brightly colored squares of the AIDS Memorial Quilt lay stretched across the Emory Quadrangle, each one a memorial to a loved one lost to AIDS. Every panel told a story, the fabric of each person’s life woven together with photographs, bits of clothing, colorful ribbons, sequins and stuffed animals and a rainbow of materials.

For senior Haley Rosengarten and Cannon Chapel Program Coordinator Sonja Jackson, each stitch brought hope and healing. Two new additions to the quilt, in honor of Rosengarten’s father and Jackson’s brother, were dedicated during the World AIDS Day ceremony on Dec. 1.

With 40 million cases worldwide and a new infection every seven seconds, the day was devoted to action and education highlighted by the largest display of the AIDS quilt in the country.

“By dedicating the quilt, I was not only honoring my father, but trying to educate Emory,” said Rosengarten, who has become a vocal advocate in the fight against AIDS.

She pointed to her father as an example of how AIDS can strike anyone. “It doesn’t matter who you are, who your friends are, or what your social class is,” she said. “It is a worldwide epidemic.”

Rosengarten first began work on the bright blue and green square — stitched with a golf motif, her father’s favorite hobby, with three black birds to represent his three daughters watching over him — as a freshman, one year after her father’s death. But it was too soon, her grief still too fresh.

She resumed work on the quilt this year as senior, and said that its dedication at Emory has brought her full circle in her journey. “This was a way for my father to be with me in the final chapter of my education,” said Rosengarten, who was one of the Quilt on the Quad’s 150 volunteers.

For Jackson, working on the quilt was a therapeutic experience. Though 10 years have passed since she lost her brother to AIDS, she still found it hard to say his name in her dedication speech during the Quilt on the Quad opening ceremony. “It’s been good going back over the memories,” she said later.

Inspired by the quilt’s inaugural visit to Emory last year, Jackson turned to its curators at the NAMES Project Foundation “who were more than happy to help me get the project going.” Jackson enlisted the help of her teenage daughter to stitch a red polo T-shirt, symbolizing her brother’s passion for fashion, into his panel. They worked hard to finish the panel so that they could show it to Jackson’s mother, who had recently had a stroke.

For more than four hours, names of each AIDS victim memorialized on the quilt panels echoed across the quad, read by Emory students, faculty and staff. Information booths offered opportunities for education and action, and spotlighted the research efforts of Emory scientists and physicians.

More than 120 faculty members throughout the University are working on some aspect of HIV/AIDS prevention or treatment. Many of the scientists within the Emory Vaccine Center are focused on finding an effective vaccine against HIV, and Emory scientists have created several of the most commonly used HIV/AIDS drugs.

Emory’s Quilt on the Quad attracted coverage from various media outlets, including live feed aired throughout the day on CNN. Sponsor Emory Hillel partnered with Volunteer Emory, the Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Life, Residence Life, Center for Student Leadership and Engagement, and others to organize the second annual event.

Dan Sperling, a student volunteer and member of the Quilt on the Quad planning committee, said there was “phenomenal turnout” for this year’s display. “The whole community came out to show their solidarity for AIDS awareness,” he said.