St. Agnes Academy-St. Dominic School has honored Ryan Edwards by promoting environmental sustainability, a concept that was close to the late St. Dominic alumnus’ heart.
Last week, the school’s Buckman Hall for science and mathematics at Walnut Grove and Mendenhall roads was converted into a life-sized science lab, as 72 solar panels were installed on the roof. The result will be energy savings for the school, energy conservation for the environment and learning opportunities for students.
The solar project is in memoriam of Edwards, who graduated from St. Dominic in 2003 and Christian Brothers High School in 2007. Edwards is the son of Scott and Margaret Edwards. His sister Maggie is a junior at St. Agnes, and his brother Taylor graduated from St. Dominic in 2009.
“From the time Ryan Edwards enrolled at St. Dominic, everyone knew he would become a special young man of great faith and conviction,” said Barbara Daush, president of St. Agnes Academy-St. Dominic School.
Edwards was passionate about the environment and leaving resources for future generations. He worked for the University of Tennessee-Knoxville recycling center, where his nickname on campus was “Cardboard Eddie.” Edwards even helped his father apply for a grant to add solar panels to his East Memphis dental office.
Preparing to graduate in May 2012 with a degree in environmental studies, Edwards died in an accident last March at age 23. After his death, his family and friends wanted to find a meaningful way to memorialize him.
Meanwhile, St. Dominic Dean John Murphy had been investigating solar projects for the campus. Before long, the Ryan Edwards Solar Initiative was created.
“The goal of this initiative is to excite, inspire and educate a whole new generation of students to follow in Ryan’s footsteps,” Murphy said. “With the installation of solar panels in Buckman Hall, we will be able to create solar energy for our science building and at the same time explore an exciting new curriculum that will bring environmental science to life for all our students.”
St. Agnes-St. Dominic claims it’s the first local private school in the area to install solar panels. To date, $65,000 has been raised to fund the solar initiative.
The cost of installing solar power is approximately $4 per watt. Solar panels on the roof of Buckman Hall will create the energy needed to power lights and equipment.
When completed, the system will generate enough electricity to reduce carbon emissions by 14 tons. That’s the equivalent of taking three cars off the road every year.
Additionally, an educational display center will be offered for students and teachers to use in math, biology, chemistry and physics classes. Data will be accessible via a user-friendly display that will include general science information, real-time solar power data, a weather station and other raw data to be used in the classroom.
Local artist and St. Dominic parent Landon Despeaux is donating an art piece in memory of Edwards. The piece, which will be created from recycled and found objects, will be housed near the solar education display in Buckman Hall.
On Earth Day, April 22 at 1:30 p.m., the school will have a ceremony celebrating the installation of the solar panels and thanking the donors who made the project possible.
St. Agnes-St. Dominic is working with parent Jeff O’Connor of Inman Solar on the project. Inman Solar is a full-service solar photovoltaic systems integrator serving commercial and residential customers nationally with offices in Atlanta and Memphis.