UA renames building to honor DeConcini
Government and UA officials gathered Wednesday to mark the formal renaming of the Environment and Natural Resources building to include the name of a former U.S. senator who led a congressional effort to build the structure on campus.
The Dennis DeConcini Environment and Natural Resources building, 520 N. Park Ave., houses a National Weather Service outlet and the southwest field offices for the U.S. Geological Survey, a federal agency that researches environmental, mineral and underground water resources.
A Tucson native and UA alumnus, DeConcini served in Congress from 1977 to 1995, during which time he pushed for funding to build a USGS station close to other research departments at the University of Arizona, including hydrology, mathematics and geosciences.
This was in response to the desires of the UA Hydrology department and the USGS, which wanted representatives to be nearby other environmentally related research areas on campus, said Nick Melcher, Arizona district chief for the organization's Tucson branch.
Melcher said DeConcini's efforts to place a USGS facility have proven highly beneficial for the agency's staff.
"It's a big advantage for us to be within walking distance of all those departments," he said.
After the building opened in 1997, employees were pleased with the new site but noticed something was missing from the building's dedication plaque, said Bob Kamilli, USGS scientist in charge for the Southwest office.
"When this building was completed in 1997, we were standing around looking at this (plaque) and our comment at the time was, 'It doesn't seem quite right,'" Kamilli said. "The plaque wasn't wrong - it just didn't tell the whole story."
This observation led Kamilli and other USGS members to request UA President Peter Likins to assign a new name to the building - one that would reflect DeConcini's involvement.
"As long as Senator DeConcini was kind enough to do this work for the university, as well as the National Weather Service and USGS, why not name the building after him?" Kamilli said.
Likins passed the idea to the Arizona Board of Regents, which approved the name change at its August meeting in Flagstaff.
A ceremony in honor of the renaming was held Wednesday afternoon, and included keynote addresses from Likins, the national director of the USGS, the deputy assistant secretary for the U.S. Department of the Interior, which oversees the USGS, and others, including DeConcini.
A public open house of the building followed, which featured more than 70 exhibits and posters of environmental and geologic processes, said Bear Pitts, USGS senior systems analyst and coordinator for the posters and displays.
In addition, several interactive presentations and examples of southwest wildlife were on display. Snakes, models demonstrating groundwater processes and tables of household products revealing the presence of minerals in everyday life were part of the open house lineup.
Hollie Pitts, a volunteer running a make-your-own toothpaste table, guided visitors through the ingredient mixing process. Components included three ground Tums tables, an eighth of a teaspoon of baking soda and half an eyedropper of water stirred with a toothpick.
Pitts said most people who made the toothpaste found it to be "pretty cool." Some were reluctant to sample the product, though.
"Some people are afraid to taste it," she said.
Undeclared freshman Summer Bloom, who participated in the open house for a class assignment, said making toothpaste from scratch was a scientifically enlightening experience.
"It was cool," Bloom said. "It was interesting, the whole Tums thing - I never stopped to think what the materials are in toothpaste."