Construction on plaza in honor of Ariz. women begins

By Holly Wells
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, December 8, 2004

Construction begins on campus today on a plaza that will honor women in Arizona, including the first woman to serve as an Arizona Supreme Court Justice, the first congresswoman from Arizona and the wife of UA President Peter Likins.

The groundbreaking ceremony for the Women's Plaza of Honor will take place today at 4 p.m. in the area west of Centennial Hall and east of the Arizona State Museum.

The plaza will honor women who have made significant contributions to Arizona as well as present-day women who have enriched the lives of those around them by being mothers, sisters and friends.

Yolanda Broyles, head of the women's studies department, said the plaza is unique in that it honors only women.

"The plaza is of historical importance," Broyles said, "It's the only monument in Arizona that is specifically honoring women. You can walk around town and see a lot of monuments honoring men, but not women."

Specific women will be honored in the plaza by having their names on benches, light fixtures or tiles, and their pictures and biographies will be available through a computer kiosk, Broyles said.

There are a variety of naming opportunities still available within the plaza. People can sponsor a particular woman and raise money to have her included in the plaza, Broyles said.

The Women's Studies Advisory Council is the sponsor of the plaza and is trying to raise $1.5 million to cover both the construction costs and an endowment fund.

The endowment fund will support the Women's Studies Department through student and faculty scholarships and stipends, Broyles said.

Broyles said the cost of construction has almost been fully raised and said the council is now concentrating on the endowment fund.

The money was raised by people who wished to sponsor a woman to be in the plaza. People can buy tiles, benches or archways to honor a specific woman. They can also plant trees in the plaza.

"An endowment benefits research and teaching. We're going to use the money for women's scholarships and professors' research. It's a gift that keeps on giving," she said.

Ginny Healy, development officer for the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, said the plaza will be a warm and inviting place. Plants, lighting and water will be present throughout the plaza and will intermingle with the archways, benches, and sculptures to represent the three stages of a woman's life: youth, maturity and reflection.

The design for the plaza came through the cooperation of four female landscape architects, all of them UA alumnae.

Liba Wheat, one of the landscape architects and a 1978 graduate of UA, said the design of the plaza was inspired by the women's studies department's ideas and the space given for the plaza.

"The department gave us the basis for everything and when we looked at the area we saw the potential for the notion of the stages of a woman's life," she said.

Wheat said she was drawn to the project because she's interested in the notion of meaning in a design.

"The fact is we're telling the story of women's lives and what they are able to accomplish in all types of settings, whether it be teaching or being a Girl Scout leader or whatever," she said.

WheatScharf Associates is working with Sletten Construction to build the plaza. Plans are to complete it in time for Mother's Day 2005.

Healy, who has bought a tile for her mother, said the idea for the plaza came about as part of President Likins' plan to beautify the campus.

"It's going to be extraordinary, the design is really tremendous," she said. "It's going to be a beautiful area to sit and reflect."

Healy said there has already been a positive response from the UA and Tucson community.

"It really runs the gauntlet of people, from important women in history being honored to people honoring women in their family who had an effect on their lives," she said. "There's not specific criteria, besides being a woman."

Healy said the plaza will be open to UA students and staff and said the plaza should also be a place for community members.

She said since the plaza is close to Centennial Hall, community members going to shows will get a chance to look through it.

"The idea was to benefit the campus and the community and this benefits both," she said.

The campus community, including faculty and students, is encouraged to attend, Broyles said.