A path leading to the Maxcy Monument in the center of the Horseshoe shows a variety of names engraved into the bricks. (Photo by Jade Crooks)
Along the brick paths between the old oaks and tidy grass, people walking on the University of South Carolina Horseshoe might see a name they recognize underneath their feet.
The same slippery bricks that can cause skinned knees on rainy days contain the names, dreams and histories of those who want to add their mark to the university’s story.
“The Horseshoe is such an iconic spot, but the pathways now have bricks that have just worn out over time,” said USC Alumni Association’s Jasmine Hoveyda, who handles brick requests for the university.“So we’re removing old bricks and restoring them pathway by pathway with these inscripted bricks.”
And behind each brick is someone’s story.
STORIES OF LOVE
For Harry Bartels and Megan Reidy Bartels, the Horseshoe is the center of their love story. It was here, in 2010 as undergrads, they would eat Groucho’s Deli sandwiches and toss a frisbee “a million times.” It is also where Bartels proposed to then-Megan Reidy six years later.
While a student, he secretly ordered a custom brick he would unveil to his girlfriend at the right time.
“I won’t tell Megan how many years beforehand I had purchased the brick, but basically … I knew I was going to propose at some point,” Bartels said beside his laughing wife.
Bartels said he never heard if the brick he ordered was laid, but one afternoon in 2016, he searched for it “on a whim.”
“All of a sudden, it appeared as if out of nowhere,” Bartels said.
It was a sign — time to propose.
“After seeing it, I had to call a few audibles.”
Within a span of five days between Bartel’s medical school graduation, their move to Charlottesville, Va., for a new job and a post-graduation trip to Scotland, they found time to make a trip back to campus to propose to Reidy Bartels on the Horseshoe. He told her the trip was to attend USC’s last home baseball game of the season.
“It was kind of ridiculous for me to be like, ‘Hey, Megan, let’s go to Columbia,’” Bartels said. “… I think Megan knew at some point we were going to get engaged but definitely wasn’t expecting it right then.”
Reidy Bartels said the proposal left her “completely stunned.”
“I love that the brick has a home on the Horseshoe,” she said. “And it has been so fun over the years to get messages and surprise FaceTime calls from friends and family who are there and looking for it.”
Bartels said that, back in 2016, he had never seen a brick used as an excuse to propose.
But there is another one.
After 2019, if he or anyone else walked the Horseshoe path near Lieber College and Sumter Street, they might have noticed another “proposal” brick — from Witt Bauknight to Kate Murrell, now Kate Bauknight.
The brick’s simple inscription reads “Kate Marry Me? Witt.”
It’s sandwiched between two other bricks — each with their separate names, commemorating their 2019 graduation.
“I was trying to figure out a way to propose through something that was meaningful for us and then paired with the idea of a brick being permanent,” Witt Bauknight said. “It was just sort of two birds with one stone.”
He said he enlisted his mom’s help for the proposal because she had ordered custom bricks before. With mom’s help, the process was “pretty seamless.”
The hard part was getting Kate Bauknight to the Horseshoe without raising her suspicions.
“Sometimes I still don’t believe that Kate was surprised, because she has a way of figuring out every single one of my surprises,” Witt Bauknight said. “I had to really sell it like, ‘Oh, we got you a brick for graduating,’ which didn’t make a lot of sense because we were still a semester away from graduating.”
Kate Bauknight said like other girls, she’s thought about the way she would be proposed to and she loves that she and her husband “get to be a part of a place that was so special to us.”
Witt Bauknight, on the other hand, said the memory of getting down on one knee was a “blur.”
“It’s nice that even though it was a blur, there’s something I definitely do remember, and that’s exactly where the brick is located,” Witt Bauknight said, laughing. “We remember the outcome.”
STORIES OF LEGACY
With more than 8000 personalized bricks on the Horseshoe, according to the university’s database, there’s bound to be a few recognizable names here and there.
Anyone walking near Harper-Elliott College, near the McKissick Museum, might see six bricks in a straight line dedicated to Hootie and The Blowfish. The band formed at USC in 1986 and went on to rock stardom. After Hootie gained national recognition, the university dedicated bricks to the members, Hoveyda said.
Other bricks with prominent figures, such as past university presidents, have special spots on the Horseshoe. Hoveyda said some people make placement requests, but if anyone wants their brick placed beside the Maxcy Monument, at the center of the green space, they’re out of luck.
“Honestly, I don’t think we have any more room for that, as it’s reserved for presidents and vice presidents,” Hoveyda said. “But we’ll actually go out there and check and see if there’s room to accommodate somebody’s requests, because the nature of the program itself is very sentimental.”
Joe Neary is an alumnus who snagged a spot near the Maxcy Monument. He graduated from USC in 2002 and earned a doctoral degree from the university in 2017. Neary has two bricks on the Horseshoe, but the one near the Maxcy Monument commemorates his undergraduate degree.
“It feels really special because you can sit there and you can think about the history that happened since the university was founded, and all of the good things that have grown from that small start,” Neary said. “It’s just pretty cool to have a physical presence in the center of it.”
Neary said the bricks also serve as inspiration for his two sons, Joseph and William.
“I started off as a cheerleader in South Carolina, doing orientation in South Carolina, getting involved in student affairs,”
Neary was a cheerleader, an orientation guide and involved with student affairs.
“It’s great to be able to share those experiences with (Joseph) even at a young age,” he said. “And we’re hoping to bring my youngest son, William, to the Horseshoe within the next year, too.”
Taylor Hersey, a two-time graduate from USC, was given a brick by her parents that’s near Lieber College after she earned her MBA in 2017. Underneath her name and degree is written “Jeremiah 29:11.” Hersey said the verse, which includes the phrase “know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord,” surprised her.
“I thought that it was just going to be my name,” Hersey said. “But when my parents put that on there, I think that it’s just kind of, not to sound cliche, but to say this was just a stepping stone of what God has planned for you and how you’re going to use this to fulfill the plans that he has to prosper.”
STORIES OF FAMILY HISTORY
When someone buys a new brick from the alumni association, the brick doesn’t get laid immediately.
Instead, Hoveyda said, batches of bricks are laid after each semester.
Nine of the new bricks being laid this December were bought by Candyce Wylie.
Inspired by a Facebook post from a friend who purchased bricks in the past, Wylie bought a brick for every member of her family who attended the university since 1938.
“Both my son and my daughter are graduating in 2022,” Wylie said. “I started to think that’s very unusual that both of them would graduate in 2022, but also (about) all of our (family members who) attended. I just thought it would be really cool for future generations that were going to attend USC to go back on the Horseshoe and see all the family members they had that attended.”
Between Wylie and her husband, four generations from her husband’s side of the family and three generations from her side will be featured.
“(My children) would never have had a conversation with their great grandmother about her time there, which is sad,” she said. “But at least it’ll be nice for the family to have something to commemorate her.”
The great grandmother in question, Isabel Betty Allen Wylie, attended the university in 1938, Wylie said, but she didn’t graduate after getting married. Nevertheless, Wylie said her family considers her to be the “O.G.” — “Original Gamecock.”
When the bricks are placed, Hoveyda said the association sends an email to the purchaser with a map showing the location of their brick.
Wylie said she was hoping the bricks would be ready by her daughter’s graduation on Dec. 11. But Hoyveda told her the bricks probably wouldn’t be installed in time.
Wylie said she has another idea in the works, though.
“I’m kind of just waiting to hear from her when they’re going to be installed,” Wylie said. “I was even thinking about doing a picnic and having a photographer, if I can swing it, because I just think it’d be a super cool thing in our family’s history to commemorate all these Gamecocks. How many people can say they are the fourth- or fifth-generation of a Gamecock?”
Everyone who purchases a brick gets a map of where it was laid. Here’s a rough guide to the bricks of the people in the story.
1. Bricks for Witt and Kate Bauknight, Taylor Hersey and Joe Neary
2. Proposal brick to Megan Reidy Bartels
3. The second brick for Joe Neary
(Graphic by Jade Crooks)
Harry Bartels proposed to his wife, Megan Reidy Bartels, through a brick he commissioned. Years later, he still hasn’t told his wife exactly when he planned it. (Photo courtesy of Megan Reidy Bartels)
Bricks were a theme for the Bartels’ wedding, including table markers at the reception. (Photo courtesy of Megan Reidy Bartels)
Witt Bauknight asked Kate Murrell to marry him where they fell in love. (Photo courtesy of the USC Alumni Association)
Sandwiched between two bricks commemorating their graduation, Witt Bauknight proposed to Kate Murrell, and the rest is history. (Photo by Jade Crooks)
For anyone who’s up for a treasure hunt, the iconic Hootie and The Blowfish bricks are near Harper-Elliot College. (Photo by Jade Crooks)
Joe Neary brought his son, Joseph, to see his Horseshoe brick as a baby. (Photo courtesy of Joe Neary)
Two years later, Neary brings Joseph to see the brick. He plans to bring his other son, William, soon. (Photo courtesy of Joe Neary)
This brick was a gift from Taylor Hersey’s parents. (Photo by Jade Crooks)