The Plaza of Heroines: Monument, lane, legend

Two Wichita State graduate students walk the path between the Rhatigan Student Center and Ablah library.

The first student takes the center brick path and sits down on a cement bench. The second goes out of his way to avoid the brick, choosing instead to walk the cement path around the center structure.

“I never go through this way,” graduate student Karri Vamsi said, referring to the Plaza of Heroines, a brick plaza in the heart of campus honoring local influential women.

The rumor is those who walk through the Plaza of Heroines do not graduate. The legend has several variations, of course.  Some claim one has to walk through the plaza during freshman year. Others claim walking atop the bricks only prevents a “timely” graduation, or the ability to graduate a program in the four years a person “should be able to.”

“I’d call the WSU story about the Plaza of Heroines a ‘legend’ instead of a ‘myth,’” said Timothy Lloyd, the executive director of American Folklore Society. “Legends are stories told as true that have a historical basis and often describe or give significance to a feature of a local place.”

Psychology graduate student Luke Cylke, the first student to approach the plaza in the scenario, said he walks through the Plaza of Heroines frequently.

“I got my bachelor’s from a different university … So I’m here just for graduate school,” Cylke said. “Hopefully I’ll graduate.”

Cylke said he had not heard of the legend of the Plaza of Heroines before this week.  

“The Plaza of Heroines is a haven for contemplation and a gathering place for celebration,” according to a website created for the structure.

The structure was created in memorial and celebration of great women in the community.

“In the plaza, engraved bricks, granite paving stones and sweeping granite benches permanently record the names of the women being honored,” the website states. “Individuals, families, associations, businesses and organizations — regardless of affiliation with WSU, all are welcome to pay loving tribute to women they wish to recognize as heroines.”

The Center for Women’s Studies was unavailable for comment. There was no research available on campus to back up the claims of this legend.  

“Now that I know [about the legend],” Cylke said, “I’ll have to watch to see how many of the people walk around it.”