Let the 150th birthday party begin!
Washington University’s sesquicentennial celebrations will commence with a birthday party Sept. 14.
According to Bob Wiltenburg, Dean of University College and the chair of the planning committee for the event, the day is meant to “start things off with a bang.”
“What this is intended to be is a gigantic arms-open embrace to the St. Louis community,” said Wiltenburg. He said that the last time that the University hosted an open house for the entire community was in 1910.
The day will consist of what Wiltenburg calls a “phenomenal series of activities.” All of the University’s schools will be involved, as will many of the student groups. Highlights include Chancellor Mark Wrighton’s performance of his “Magic Mark” magic show, a version of the Indian dance show Diwali, and the School of Law’s presentation of “Goldilocks on Trial.”
Participants will also be able to enjoy lectures on various subjects, ranging from Lewis and Clark to breakthrough medicine.
The party will also feature silent movies with accompaniment by Jeff Smith, associate professor of performing arts. One of the movies, called the “Maid of McMillan,” was filmed by University students.
The event will culminate in a performance by the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra on the Brookings Quadrangle in the evening. Steve Givens, assistant to the chancellor and on-campus coordinator of the Sesquicentennial Commission, said that the goal was to plan “a nice evening event that anyone could come to.” He said that the program will feature light classical and popular music.
Senior Michelle Miller, president of Student Union, said that this event will help to connect the University with the St. Louis area.
“We’re reaching out to the community in a big way,” said Miller. “Sept. 14 will say, ‘We are here, we are always here, so come see what we’re about.’”
The Sept. 14 celebration will be followed by Founder’s Week, which will include the Assembly Series Sesquicentennial Lecture, given by Thomas Friedman, a New York Times columnist and best-selling author.
The week will end in Founders Day on Sept. 21, during which the sesquicentennial video will premiere, and the keynote speaker will present the annual Founders Day address. At press time, the name of the speaker has not been released, although senior University administrators have confirmed that President George W. Bush is considering an offer to give the Founders Day address.
Givens has worked with the other members of the Sesquicentennial Commission to coordinate a year’s lineup of various events commemorating the school’s establishment.
For example, each of the University’s schools were encouraged to sponsor their own Assembly Series speaker. Givens said the Commission’s goal was to make the Assembly Series “a little more special than normal.”
Miller said that the University encouraged student groups to plan special events. “It’s a community effort,” said Miller. “They really reached out to student groups; they were really willing to fund things that students thought of.”
The yearlong celebration will also include an exhibit in Steinberg Hall to honor the University’s history. A book due out in December will also commemorate the past 150 years.
There will also be a Sesquicentennial Biology Seminar Series and a Sesquicentennial Environmental Initiative.
Givens said that the Commission helped to coordinate these various happenings by creating an online calendar on which groups planning activities can post their event, which can be accessed at the sesquicentennial Web site, 150.wustl.edu. Students will also be receiving a calendar by mail within the next two months.
George Washington, the school’s namesake, will also play a role in the celebration of the sesquicentennial. In Spring 2004, his statue will find a home in front of the new entrance to Olin Library.
Planning for the yearlong celebration started a couple of years ago. Givens said that the first thing that the Commission did was create a vision statement, which can be accessed on the sesquicentennial Web site.
The Commission draws its members from the faculty and staff of all of the schools within the University, students, and alumni. While the Commission planned many of the events featured during the yearlong celebration, many other groups planned special activities.
Planning for the Sept. 14 event began in Spring 2003. Wiltenburg has worked with a group of 20 representatives from different areas of the university. The day itself will necessitate the help of about 300 volunteers, including students, alumni, and faculty. Interested students can contact Wiltenburg via email at [email protected]
Miller served as a member of Wiltenburg’s committee and has been closely involved with the entire planning process. She called the entire sesquicentennial celebration “an extraordinarily-planned yearlong party.”
Sophomore Benjamin Kornfeld said that he feels lucky to be on campus during this time. “There are so many opportunities to take advantage of,” said Kornfeld. “I think that we will all end the year with a better understanding of how we fit into the University community.”
Givens also sees the Sept. 14 event and the other activities throughout the year as only one facet of the sesquicentennial anniversary. He believes the landmark is cause not only for celebration but reflection.
“It’s important to stop and look backward a little bit and see the people and events that got us to where we are today,” said Givens.
However, he also noted that the occasion encourages us to “look forward to where the University might be in 10 or 20 years.”
Ultimately, Givens said, the anniversary is most significant because it “allows us to do both at the same time.”
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