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Alumni plaza: Plaza to be dedicated tonight

JOEY HESLINGA/Arizona Daily Wildcat
After months of construction, workers applied the finishing touches to the Alumni Plaza yesterday afternoon in preparation for today's dedication ceremony. The plaza will be dedicated tonight as part of the UA's Homecoming celebration.
By Natasha Bhuyan
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, October 29, 2004
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Public will get first look at sculpture

After five years of planning, the Alumni Plaza will open tonight at a dedication ceremony and be presented to the university in front of administrators, alumni, students and the Tucson community.

The dedication begins at 5 p.m. and will be followed by "The Bash on Alumni Plaza," a dinner to kick off the weekend.

Sandra Ruhl, president of the UA Alumni Association, said the plaza will provide students with an open area for private conversations, relaxation or recreation activities.

"By providing a comfortable, attractive place where people can spend time together, we believe Alumni Plaza will help create an even greater sense of community on our campus," Ruhl said.

Kay Brown, board member and chair-elect of the Arizona Alumni Association, said the project was first initiated to strengthen the connection between UA alumni and the student body by symbolically celebrating the rich heritages and traditions of the UA.

"We want to create a sense of community across generations," Brown said.

During the Alumni Plaza Dedication Celebration, a 14-foot-tall bronze sculpture depicting wildcat parents guarding two cubs will be unveiled.

Titled "The Wildcat Family," the sculpture is the UA Alumni Association's gift to the university and is meant to be symbolic of the relationship between alumni and students, as well as the campus community.

Alumni Plaza will help create an even greater sense of community on our campus.

- Sandra Ruhl, president of the UA Alumni Association


"The University of Arizona Wildcat Family name is symbolic of the family that it takes to make a university work - faculty, staff, students - it takes a community," said Anne Lopez, program coordinator for the alumni office.

Sculpted by Nicholas Wilson, the art piece is priced at $170,000, and the donor will also be revealed at the ceremony.

The ceremony is open to the public and will include mariachis, American Indian dancing, African drumming, "Roaring '20s" dancing, the UA Alumni Band, an a cappella group performance, Hawaiian dancing and a fireworks show. Classic cars from the T-Bird and Corvette Car Clubs will encircle the area.

Anne Murdaugh, a graduate student in physics, said she is curious to see the more elaborate pieces that will be revealed tonight and wonders if they will transform the atmosphere of the UA Mall, which has been under construction for nearly a year.

"I'm interested to see the major difference that the plaza is going to bring (to the Mall)," Murdaugh said. "What wild new things will be out there?"

Funded entirely by alumni and private donors, the $2.5 million plaza will feature a Wildcat Walk, four water fountains, seating areas and an assortment of environmental landscape, such as mesquite trees, evergreen elms, red oaks, and palo verde trees.

Philip May, chair of the Alumni Association in 1999 and president of Associated Students of the University of Arizona in 1980, said he conceived the idea of the Alumni Plaza to educate students on the university's history, as well as strengthen the relationship between alumni and students.

WILL SEBERGER/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Construction workers excavate the site of the Alumni Plaza in front of the Administration building in August. Planning for the project began five years ago.

But the construction of the Alumni Plaza was overwhelmingly opposed by the student body in 2002, after alumni revealed plans of moving the Joseph Wood Krutch cactus garden to a location near Old Main.

The cactus garden, which has been a part of the university since 1891, contained rare boojum trees that students feared would be destroyed during the move.

After negotiations with students and community members, alumni agreed to preserve the garden and incorporate it into the Alumni Plaza.

Nick Ruiz, an undeclared freshman, said he looks forward to the opening so he will be able to get to his class in the Modern Languages building without walking around construction.

"I had no clue what it was," Ruiz said. "I thought they were adding more classes there."

Following the dedication of the 108,000-square foot Alumni Plaza will be "The Bash on Alumni Plaza," a homecoming kick-off dinner.

Cheryl Andrews, administrative assistant for the alumni office, said in conjunction with this year's homecoming's western theme of "Wild, Wild, Wildcats!," the bash will include a barbecue, presentation of the Homecoming royalty nominees and performances by the UA Pep Band.

Andrews expects about 600 to 700 people to attend.

The dedication ceremony is free and open to the public. To RSVP, call Anne Lopez at 621-9026.

The bash begins at 6 p.m. Tickets are $25 in advance or $30 at the door. For tickets, call Cheryl Andrews at 621-9024.

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