FEATURE — Summer 2004


A Banner Year

Over the past academic year, Washington University celebrated its Sesquicentennial. Visitors came to campus from near and far to participate in special anniversary events—and even George Washington made an appearance.

Over the course of its first 150 years, Washington University has made remarkable progress, growing from a college educating local men and women to an internationally known research university with students and faculty from approximately 120 countries. During the past academic year, Washington University recognized this historical transformation with a series of celebratory events.

"This was a special time to look back on our distinguished past and reflect upon the University's continuing role as a leader in education and research and as a valuable asset to our community, our nation, and the world," says Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton.

"I think the Sesquicentennial year has been a great success on several different fronts," says Steve Givens, assistant to the chancellor and on-campus coordinator for the Sesquicentennial celebration. "I think we have been true to our mission, and to our vision of 'Treasuring the Past and Shaping the Future.'

One of the highlights of the 150th Birthday Party at the School of Medicine was "Kids Corner," where children learned about medical equipment and surgical techniques.

"We have celebrated our history very effectively with displays, lectures, events, and, of course, the newly released history book. We honored the present and our community with events like the birthday party, open house, and symphony performance. We have brought to the campus interesting academic and artistic events, ranging from big-name lecturers and important symposia to world premier plays and new ways to think about critical issues.

"The lasting value of all this is perhaps for future historians, but I believe we have begun some important programs, such as the environmental initiative and the Ethic of Service Award, that people in the future will point to as lasting remnants of the year."

Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton (right) and Thomas Friedman, New York Times columnist, prepare for Commencement on May, 21, 2004. Friedman, a three-time Pulitzer Prize winner, visited the University twice during the Sesquicentennial. He gave the Assembly Series lecture during Founders Week last fall, and he was the Commencement speaker this spring.

The new history book, Beginning a Great Work: Washington University in St. Louis, 1853-2003, written by Candace O'Connor, was first available February 23, 2004, on William Greenleaf Eliot Day. On this day, the University also unveiled a portrait of Eliot, by artist Gilbert Early, B.F.A. '59, in Holmes Lounge.

Highlighting the University's long history of student performances, student a cappella groups were featured in a compilation CD, Vibrant Voices. Mailed to homes near the University’s campuses, the CD features musical styles ranging from European madrigal to gospel to contemporary pop.

At Commencement, faculty and graduates wore a distinctive gown, designed by Leslie Lambeth, lecturer in fashion design at the School of Art. Green with black velvet trim, the gown has the University shield on both sleeves at the shoulder. Another special feature of Commencement was speaker Thomas Friedman, the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist of the New York Times, who was making his second appearance during the Sesquicentennial. (He also gave the Assembly Series lecture during Founders Week.)

The annual Sesquicentennial Ethic of Service Award, an award established during the Sesquicentennial, recognizes a select group of Washington University community members who exemplify a character of service and giving to the St. Louis region.

The Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra performed to a capacity crowd in Brookings Quadrangle to cap off the 150th Birthday Party on Sunday, September 14, 2003.

The first honorees are Edy Kim, M.D./Ph.D. student; W. Edwin Dodson, associate vice chancellor for admissions, School of Medicine; Juliet DiLeo, Arts & Sciences Class of '04; Linda Esah, Arts & Sciences Class of '03; Sanford Silverstein, B.S. '43 (mechanical engineering); and G. Scott Robinson, systems programmer at West Campus.

"The Sesquicentennial's focus on our history reminds us of our close ties to the St. Louis region," says Stephanie Kurtzman, coordinator for community service and chair of the Sesquicentennial Ethic of Service Award committee. "We hope this award will help highlight and inspire those who give back to the region in a meaningful way."

Time to celebrate

On February 22, 2003, the University turned 150. To observe the signing of the University's charter in 1853 (established as Eliot Seminary), note the birthday of the University's namesake, and generate excitement for the upcoming yearlong celebration, the University and student groups sponsored a week of events, culminating on February 22, 2003, with a George Washington Birthday Party in the Athletic Complex.

Remembering Tennessee Williams' 'Secret Year'

While attending Washington University, Tennessee Willams was a member of the 1936 Hatchet staff.

To honor one of the world's greatest playwrights, the Performing Arts Department (PAD) sponsored an international symposium, "The Secret Year," on former University student Tennessee Williams.

"Perhaps the greatest pleasure in encountering Tennessee Williams is that we get to learn more about ourselves," says Henry Schvey, chair of the Performing Arts Department in Arts & Sciences. "In discovering more about his secret year at Washington University, we add to the available store of information about Williams' early years which, however unhappy, are absolutely central to the fragile world he created onstage."

The symposium was titled "The Secret Year" because Williams frequently omitted his year at Washington University (1936-37) from early biographies—perhaps because of the devastation he suffered over placing fourth in Professor William G.B. Carson's annual playwriting contest.

Resurrecting Williams' script from University Archives, Schvey and Michelle Orr, lecturer, Department of English in Arts & Sciences, co-directed the never-before-produced play, Me Vashya, for the symposium. In conjunction with Me Vashya, PAD performed The Glass Menagerie, also directed by Schvey.

The three-day symposium featured a guest appearance and reminiscences by Williams' brother, Dakin; bus tours of Williams' historical sites in St. Louis; a production, "Caged Hearts: Five Early Plays," by University of Illinois faculty and students; a photo and manuscript exhibit; and a series of lectures on the life and work of Tennessee Williams by internationally renowned Williams' experts.

In September 2003, Founders Week was the "official" kickoff of the Sesquicentennial. Another week's worth of activities began with a birthday party open house on Sunday, September 14, 2003, and ended with the Founders Day dinner on Saturday, September 20.

At the 150th Birthday Party, the University opened its doors on both campuses to the St. Louis community, alumni, students, faculty, and staff. An estimated 15,000 visitors participated in more than 200 activities and events, ranging from lectures, readings, and performances, to health screenings, sports clinics, and interactive mock trials. They partook of food, beverages, and "Ses-Quetes," a special new flavor of concrete dessert created by alumnus Ted Drewes, A.B. '50. In the evening, a capacity crowd in Brookings Quadrangle enjoyed a free concert by the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra.

"In celebrating our 150th birthday, we are reaffirming our commitment to the community," says Chancellor Wrighton. "We were delighted to open our campus to members of our community, and, most of all, we hope that everyone had an enjoyable time exploring our facilities and learning about what we do."

Other Founders Week highlights included lectures commemorating the 200-year anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase and 100-year anniversary of the 1904 World's Fair and Olympian Games in St. Louis; the first lecture—"China of 1853: Bandits at Home and Foreigners on the Shores"—of a free noncredit short course, "Remembering 1853: A Sesquicentennial Celebration of the Humanities," a yearlong introduction to the humanities from a global perspective and through the lens of 1853; and the annual Founders Day dinner, which recognized outstanding faculty, alumni, and University friends. The honorable Robert J. Dole was keynote speaker, and he spoke on "Leadership and Values in the 21st Century."

And the Sesquicentennial excitement did not let down after Founders Week.

At the Gallery of Art September through December, Influence 150: 150 Years of Shaping a City, a Nation, the World showcased how Washington University positively influenced the growth and development of St. Louis, the United States, and the world over its 150-year history. The exhibit moved to the medical school during the spring.

"Influence 150 examined two major, if parallel, themes," says Shirley K. Baker, vice chancellor for information technology and dean of University Libraries. "The first is the role of the university in urban American society—that is, how Washington University and St. Louis have each contributed to the growth and development of the other.

Student Life Turns 125

Celebrating its own milestone, 125 years, was Student Life, the oldest continually running newspaper in St. Louis. Past and present staff members gathered on campus for a reunion in September to coincide with the Sesquicentennial Birthday Party. Among those attending were Ken Cooper, A.B. '77, national editor of The Boston Globe and Pulitzer Prize winner; Michael Isikoff, A.B. '74, investigative reporter for Newsweek; and editorial cartoonist Mike Peters, B.F.A. '65, Pulitzer Prize-winning creator of "Mother Goose and Grimm."

About the reunion, Jonathan Greenberger, Student Life editor, says: "Seeing the enormous impact that working on the paper had on our alumni made me realize even more how important the paper is to me. I met people who hadn’t been on campus in 30 years, but they came back for this, because Student Life meant that much to them."

"The second is the influence of Washington University as a modern, international institution, and the individuals and groups—chancellors, scholars, immigrants, and women—who have helped to shape its identity and reputation."

Schools go all out

Each school sponsored events as well. 'Conversations,' sponsored by Arts & Sciences, was a "forum for reflection on issues that affect the future of the University, the community, and the world." Faculty and distinguished guest speakers discussed four major topics: "What Kind of International Borders Will Exist in the 21st Century?"; "The Future of Freedom"; "Public Intellectuals"; and "Modern Human Origins."

"The idea of 'Conversations' was to gather some of the top minds in the country to reflect on key issues that will affect not only the future of the University and the community, but also the world," says Edward S. Macias, executive vice chancellor, dean of Arts & Sciences, and the Barbara and David Thomas Distinguished Professor in Arts & Sciences. "They were not formal lectures, but more an opportunity for a mixture of scholars to discuss important questions."

School of Engineering & Applied Science special events included the dedication of Uncas A. Whitaker Hall for Biomedical Engineering, in October 2003, and a "Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Colloquia" in December to honor the 100th anniversary of the Wright Brothers’ flight.

The School of Art—along with the School of Law, Olin School of Business, Olin Library Special Collections, the Department of Art History & Archaeology, and the American Culture Studies Program (both in Arts & Sciences)—presented Typographically Speaking: The Art of Matthew Carter at the Des Lee Gallery in the fall semester. Matthew Carter is among the preeminent type designers of the 20th century; his work has helped shape the familiar graphic looks of Time, Newsweek, and Sports Illustrated magazines as well as The Boston Globe, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and The Washington Post.

Other School of Law events included its Sesquicentennial Lecture (the year's first Assembly Series lecture) with Lee C. Bollinger, president of Columbia University and law professor. Focusing primarily on free speech and First Amendment issues, Bollinger spoke on "The Foundations of the Principles of Academic Freedom." A conference, "Globalization, the State, and Society," explored issues and debates over the relationship between globalization and sovereignty, and the prospects for the modern social welfare state and state-society bargains in an increasingly global economy, sponsored by the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies, the Whitney R. Harris Institute for Global Legal Studies, and the Department of Political Science in Art & Sciences.

Myrtle E. and Earl E. Walker were among those attending the groundbreaking for the Sam Fox Art Center’s Earl E. and Myrtle E. Walker Hall and Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum on April 14, 2004.

At Givens Hall, the School of Architecture presented an exhibit and timeline (1948-present) illustrating notable post-war examples of modern architecture in St. Louis and the role and development of the international visiting architect's program with the School.

The major highlight for architecture and the visual arts on campus, however, was the April 14, 2004, groundbreaking of the Sam Fox Arts Center's 65,000-square-foot Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum and the 38,000-square-foot Earl E. and Myrtle E. Walker Hall (studio space for the School of Art). The two new limestone buildings, designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Fumihiko Maki, will integrate the Maki-designed Steinberg Hall and the recently renovated Bixby and Givens halls, current homes to the Schools of Art and Architecture.

"By bringing art, architecture, and art history into a consortium with our museum and library, we are embarking on a new approach to arts education," says Mark S. Weil, director of the Sam Fox Arts Center and the Gallery of Art, and the E. Desmond Lee Professor for Collaboration in the Arts.

Under the theme: "Learning from the Past, Charting the Future," the School of Social Work hosted a conference series including "Civic Service: Impacts and Inquiry, an International Symposium"; "Strengthening the Research Capacity of Schools of Social Work"; "Strategies to Empower Women and Girls"; and "Social Work's Research Agenda in the Field of Addictions and HIV Research."

Lock and Chain, the sophomore honorary, sponsored a "Get Your Picture Taken with George Washington Day" on February 20, 2003, one of the events leading up to the February 22, 2003, George Washington Birthday Party for students, faculty, and staff.

The School of Medicine hosted lectures and symposia, too. The William H. Danforth Scientific Symposium, "Medicine at the Millennium," honoring Dr. Danforth, chancellor emeritus, highlighted important advances in biomedical research and investigative activities at the University. A key symposium, "The Brain from Start to Finish," brought together a distinguished group of neuroscientists to discuss current views on the formation, plasticity, and aging of the brain.

Students rise to occasion

Students were enthusiastically involved with the Sesquicentennial in and outside the classroom.

Students from the Give Thanks Give Back committee brought together members of the University community to adopt and present gifts to more than 160 area families during the holidays.

In the course Women in Higher Education, taught by Mary Ann Dzuback, associate professor of education, students spent a semester researching the lives of the women of the University through the University Archives, local community resources, and alumni interviews. The class presented papers at the Olin Conference in the fall, and copies are filed in Archives.

Excelling outside the classroom, the Give Thanks Give Back committee, working with St. Louis' "100 Neediest Cases" during the holidays, aimed to double its 2002 success by adopting 150 families, one for each of the University's 150 years. With the Greek community, other students, faculty, and staff working together, the University surpassed its goal and adopted more than 160 families.

Sesquicentennial Initiative Focuses on Environment

The Sesquicentennial Commission, along with funding from the V. Kann Rasmussen Foundation, sponsored a series of lectures and colloquia on environmental issues—in hopes of better understanding the depth of environmental challenges facing our region, our nation, and the world. The Sesquicentennial Environmental Initiative, "The Role of Research Universities in Addressing Environmental Issues," will continue to shape the University's educational programs, research, and operations as they relate to the environment and become one of the defining interdisciplinary programs at the University.

In the fall semester, two former administrators of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency came to campus to discuss how politics and government influence the nation's environmental landscape in the "Government, Politics, and Environment" lecture, and two noted environmental scientists discussed the scientific challenges and opportunities in environmental research in the "Science and the Environment" lecture.

The School of Engineering & Applied Science and Olin School of Business sponsored a colloquium on energy, specifically energy-related policies and challenges facing us as home and abroad. The inaugural Ryckman Lecture was "Precautionary Approach for Toxic Chemicals in the Environment: Experiences and Concepts in the Making."

A two-part colloquium on children and lead poisoning, "Effects of early Childhood Lead Exposure: New Findings of Cognitive and Social Impairment" and "Bridging the Gap Between Research and Policy: Childhood Lead Poisoning as a Case Study," was the first spring event.

"Plant Sciences—Impact on Nanotechnology to Global Climate"; "The Sustainable University," a colloquium sponsored by the School of Architecture that focused on campus environmental design; "Educational Practices and the Environment," a presentation on environmental education and research initiatives at leading research universities; and "Our Rivers: A Sustainable Resource?" a colloquium providing background on the history of rives in our region, and their various uses.

Overall, defining what steps members of the University can take to contribute solutions to these challenges is the hope of a lasting legacy from the Sesquicentennial.

Sophomore Lynnette McRae, co-chair of the education and advocacy committee, hopes that Give Thanks Give Back will continue to grow. "Seeing what the University as a community has done for others is truly rewarding. Taking tons of presents into an agency for others was the best!" McRae says.

Other major philanthropic events included Dance Marathon, which raised more than $250,000 for St. Louis Children's and Cardinal Glennon hospitals; Relay for Life, which raised more than $46,000 for the American Cancer Society; and Thurtene Carnival, which celebrated the 100-year anniversary of Thurtene Honorary, and donated its proceeds to Youth in Need, a local charity.

Country-wide celebrations

Traveling to regional programs and reaching alumni across the country, Robert L. Virgil, M.B.A. '60, D.B.A. '67, chair of the Sesquicentennial Commission, University trustee, former executive vice chancellor for University Relations, and former dean of the Olin School of Business, shared the University's 150th anniversary video, Milestones: Moments from the First 150 Years at Washington University in St. Louis.

"At 150, Washington University is a remarkable place," says Virgil. "The campuses are being transformed with new and improved spaces that support teaching and learning and medical care. The students are impressive. Faculty members are engaged in important research, ranging from the highly visible Human Genome Project to answering the question: 'Why do some nations become rich while others remain poor?'—among many, many others.

"Washington University graduates are contributing in thousands of important ways to their communities, the nation, and the world.

"Looking back at the achievements of the men and women who have built Washington University into the place it is today is inspirational. Looking ahead and imagining what the University might still become is very exciting."

Compiled and written by Teresa Nappier, editor.