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The Desert Yearbook
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Yearbook royalty back on campus after drought

By Dana Crudo
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, May 12, 2004
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Ryan Harper
Lauren Hall

Ryan Harper and Lauren Hall are the first students selected as The Desert Yearbook king and queen after the UA tradition of announcing yearbook royalty took a 40-year hiatus.

Daniel Scarpinato, The Desert Yearbook editor, got the idea of bringing the tradition back to the UA campus after sifting through some old yearbooks from as early as 1920 and seeing pictures of a decked-out Desert Queen.

"The Desert Queen was a really big deal on campus," he said. "It was almost like the Miss America Pageant."

Scarpinato said he decided to bring the tradition back after seeing how important it was in the past, while also creating a Desert King title so the competition wouldn't be sexist.

"We thought it would be neat," he said. "It seemed like something kind of unique to the UA, and kind of quirky."

But instead of taking it as seriously as it was in the past, Scarpinato said he decided to make it more fun and more true to the yearbook's style by not only looking for a student with spirit but also one who knows how to have fun.

"We took the approach of looking for a student who epitomized what the UA student of 2004 would be like," he said. "That meant everything from spirit to leadership, but also things like what they do on the weekends."

And it was Harper, a molecular and cellular biology senior, and Hall, a retail and consumer sciences senior, who were finally selected to fill the shoes of the Desert King and Queen.

After receiving more than 50 nominations for the position, a selections committee narrowed down the group to four men and four women. The finalists were then interviewed by a group of 10 students and judged on involvement, awareness, spirit and charm - the same categories used in past contests.

Harper and Hall were then unveiled to the student body on the UA Mall, just as in earlier contests.

"I think they both have an understanding of college and of being a UA student, but at the same time balancing it with things outside of school," Scarpinato said. "They were really well-rounded people and should be recognized."

He said that the selections committee was captivated by Harper's story of leaving the UA as a completely different person.

Harper said when he first arrived to the UA as a freshman from Phoenix, he didn't know himself, lacked self-confidence and wasn't happy with who he was.

And for the next year and a half, he said he didn't get involved and only viewed the UA as a pit stop to wherever he was going next.

But that changed when he was urged to join Chain Gang Junior Honorary and found his niche on the UA campus there.

"It let me see that there is so much more than just sitting in my room and doing homework and being grumpy," he said.

Harper also became involved in Bobcats senior honorary and the Associated Students of the University of Arizona as class council director.

"You have to find your own little niche no matter where it is," he said. "You have to find something you like and run with it."

Harper said receiving the Desert King title serves as an awesome recognition for the experiences he has had in college.

"The best thing about the UA was the collection of experiences I had here," he said. "I came here at a really low (level), and I am leaving at a really high level."

Scarpinato said Hall stood out from the other candidates because the selections committee liked her rendition of "Bear Down Arizona" and her amazing amount of school spirit.

Hall, of the third generation in her family to attend the UA, said she knew immediately that the UA was the place for her.

"The university had a good mix of both fun and academics," she said.

Hall said she loves wearing red and blue, and probably owns more UA shirts than the average person. She even has a screen saver of the UA.

"I just have great pride in the UA," she said. "I am proud that I am a Wildcat."

Hall also said she attended all of the football games and has enjoyed all aspects of campus life from living in the dorms, to homecoming and sorority recruitment during her freshman year. She has also involved herself with the greek system and various honoraries.

But Hall said she also lives life off campus by hanging out at Dirtbag's and through her work with various community service organizations.

"My mom always taught me to work hard and play hard," she said. "I love school and I love doing my best in school, but I also like to have a good time."

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