Formal dedication for the Danforth University Center set for April 17

Community gathers to celebrate campus centerpiece

The William H. and Elizabeth Gray Danforth University Center opened last August 11 to the joy of faculty, students, staff and visitors alike. On Friday, April 17, 2009, the University community will come together to celebrate its formal dedication and honor its namesakes.

The contributions of the new Center to the life of the campus have been widely felt by all members of the Washington University community, and each group will be represented at the 3 p.m. ceremony in Graham Chapel. David W. Kemper, chairman of the University’s Board of Trustees, Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton, Chancellor Emeritus William H. Danforth, and Trustee Emeritus Robert Virgil will all speak at the special event. Ann Rubenstein Tisch, a trustee, alumna, and major donor to the Center, will also give remarks.

Speakers who will address the impact of the Center on students’ lives include James E. McLeod, vice chancellor for students and dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, as well as outgoing Student Union president Brittany Perez and Charles Vos, representing the undergraduate and graduate students, respectively.

“Every time I am in the Danforth University Center, I am struck by its beauty, its functionality, and the way in which people, especially students, are thriving in its environment,” Wrighton said. “When I enter the Center, I think of the Danforths’ vision and I’m gratified that it has been realized. Of the many buildings developed during my chancellorship, none has had such an immediate and profound effect on our community.”

“At the heart of the Danforth University Center’s purpose is a comfortable gathering space that accommodates the activities and daily interactions of all who come to the Danforth Campus. The Center is a place where we eat, study, work, meet, and enjoy stimulating programs,” McLeod noted.

Immediately following the formal program in the chapel, guests will gather at the north entrance of the Danforth University Center for a ribbon-cutting and a reception in the Edison Family Courtyard and throughout the Danforth University Center. Students will be on hand to offer tours to guests.

Named in honor of Chancellor Emeritus Danforth and the late Elizabeth (Ibby) Gray Danforth, the three-story, 116,000-square-foot facility boasts an impressive array of eateries (including Ibby’s Bistro), rooms for staff and student offices, meeting rooms, classrooms, a Career Center, courtyards, casual and formal lounges, and below it, a 522-space parking garage.

For several decades, the Danforths have been a major force for the advancement of Washington University and a significant presence in the lives of students, staff, faculty, alumni, and friends. In 1971 William Danforth became the University’s 13th chancellor, but his influence was felt much earlier, as a professor in the medical school and vice chancellor of medical affairs before his chancellorship, then as chairman and life trustee for the Board, and currently as chancellor emeritus. Elizabeth Danforth, who died in 2005, shared her husband’s passion and vision for the University, and was actively involved in the life of the campus.

Both students, Vos, a business and law graduate student, and Perez, who will graduate in May with a degree in psychology in Arts & Sciences, appreciate the Danforth University Center for different reasons. The Danforth University Center provides a dedicated place for graduate students to gather for the first time. Perez’s successors in Student Union will now work in comfortable offices.

The concept of a true university center – an indoor town square – began with a lead gift from the Danforth Foundation during the Campaign for Washington University. According to Virgil, chairman of the Danforth University Center Campaign Committee, early commitments from A.G. Edwards & Sons, Inc., and the Edison Family Group helped move the planning forward with several additional gifts from alumni, parents, trustees, corporations, foundations, staff and other friends.

David T. Blasingame, executive vice chancellor for Alumni & Development Programs, attributes the successful gift effort to the dedication of the committee and to the University’s supportive group of alumni, parents and friends:

“With Bob Virgil at the helm, the committee did a splendid job in communicating our need for this outstanding facility which is now the center of activity on the Danforth Campus, and our friends and supporters responded with extraordinary generosity,” he said.

In addition to being an emeritus trustee, Virgil is dean emeritus of the Olin Business School, where he was a professor and dean until 1993. He also has led many volunteer projects at Washington University, including the committee to celebrate the University’s Sesquicentennial in 2003-04.

One of the most popular gathering areas is the Tisch Commons, made possible by the generosity of Ann Tisch, who graduated from Arts & Sciences in 1976, and her husband, Andrew. Ann Tisch enjoyed a successful media career, but in 1991 she began devoting her time to creating an all-girls public school in East Harlem. Called The Young Women’s Leadership School, the curriculum stresses mathematics, science and technology. Its success provided the momentum to expand, with schools now operating in New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Texas.

Adjoining Tisch Commons is the John F. and Stephanie Brooks Dains Dining Hall, offering an inviting place to enjoy the greatest variety of dining choices on campus. The couple met while at Washington University. Stephanie Dains graduated from Arts & Sciences in 1969 with a degree in psychology, and received a master of arts degree in teaching from Webster University, which she used to forge a career as an art therapist and teacher. John Dains, a 1968 graduate of the John M. Olin Business School, is chief executive officer of Helm Financial Corporation, which leases railcars and locomotives. Their quote, now on a plaque hanging in the Dining Hall, sums up their feelings for their alma mater: “No single experience has had more affect on our lives than our time at Washington University. Not only did the University develop our critical thinking, it introduced us to many of our greatest lifelong friends, not to mention each other.”

On the third floor, members of the student media, such as Student Life and WUTV, keep busy in their new, spacious workrooms. Here you’ll find another example of remarkable generosity, the Angel and Paul Harvey Media Center. The late Lynne “Angel” Cooper Harvey, a devoted alumna and pioneering radio producer, and her husband, the late, great radio broadcaster Paul Harvey, were dedicated, long-time supporters of Washington University.

Paul Harvey, who died February 28 at the age of 90, was one of the most recognizable voices on radio. He became famous with the “Paul Harvey News & Comment” program, broadcast daily by ABC Radio Networks beginning in 1951. Together with another popular commentary, “The Rest of the Story,” Harvey’s programs reached an estimated 25 million listeners on more than 1,200 stations and 400 Armed Forces stations. Angel Harvey forged a career at a time in an industry dominated by men, and her innovations in broadcasting journalism have been recognized by being the first producer inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame. She received a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in English from Washington University. The Harveys will be remembered each day by the students who use the media center.

Wrighton said that the growing number of gifts speaks not only to the stellar work of the committee, but also to the great admiration felt for the Danforths. “Perhaps no other couple has had a greater impact and earned the admiration and respect of so many of us,” Wrighton said.

“Ibby would be very pleased by having her name attached to this wonderful Center,” said Danforth. “I have countless warm memories of our years together at Washington University. She would see the new Danforth University Center as a special place where students can gather with their friends and classmates for activities and talks, for learning and for growing.”

The Center’s architect, Tsoi/Kobus and Associates of Cambridge, Mass, has won industry awards for the building. Clayco of St. Louis served as general contractor. The Boulder, Colo design firm Communication Arts, Inc., designed some of the dining areas and the Center’s “fun room” which is a unique spot for students to relax. Because of its adherence to the University’s commitment to sustainability, energy and environmental responsibility, the facility has received a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold rating from the U.S. Green Building Council.

The ceremony and dedication are open to the general public. For more information, call Debbie Baldridge at 314-935-7066 or 800-935-6298, or send an email message to: