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Baker grand opening draws packed house

Members of university community commemorate historic day

By Meryl Smith

ATHENS, Ohio (Feb. 12, 2007) -- Members of the Ohio University and Athens communities joined together to celebrate the historic grand opening of Baker University Center on Feb. 10. Like the building itself, the day was dedicated to bringing together all members of the community.

Photo by Rick FaticaThe day kicked off with a toast in the Front Room by leaders of the university's constituent groups. Together, the group toasted Baker Center being a place "where we come together: faculty, students, staff, colleagues, friends... as a community."

"Ohio University has long needed a center where we can work, learn and laugh together," Faculty Senate Chair Phyllis Bernt said.

Following the ceremonial toast, Ohio University President Roderick J. McDavis echoed those sentiments during the building's dedication.

"This building was created with the most deliberate intentions to bring together students, faculty, staff, alumni and Athens community members," McDavis said. "I hope that you will see this place as the true community gathering space that it is intended to be. This is the heart of our vibrant, spirited community."

Photo by Rick FaticaThe building was dedicated in honor and memory of John Calhoun Baker, the 14th president of Ohio University.

"His contributions still resonate on this campus today," McDavis said. "He understood the importance of creating a central nerve center to meet the needs of the university."

After the dedication, hundreds of people joined the president and other guests in cutting the green ribbon that wrapped around the 3rd, 4th and 5th floors. Participants were given a commemorative pair of scissors and the opportunity to have a piece of ribbon embossed with a special seal used only opening day.

Those ceremonial activities also included the dedication of the Phi Beta Kappa clock, meant to stand as a symbol of the society's mission of fostering and recognizing excellence in the liberal arts and sciences. Phi Beta Kappa is the oldest undergraduate honors organization in the United States.

"There is a need to know where we are in life and the liberal arts help us get there," National Secretary of Phi Beta Kappa Society John Churchill said. "Knowledge and evidence of our place in life are symbolized by the clock."

More dedication activities followed on the first floor as the crowd gathered around the terrazzo art installation by Aminah Robinson. The art depicts scenes from Poindexter Village, one of the country's first federally funded housing developments, where Robinson grew up.

McDavis and Provost Kathy Krendl honored the internationally renowned artist and thanked her not only for her contribution to the university community but for her many contributions to the international community at large. In the afternoon guests were invited to join Robinson in a fireside chat.

The crowd visited the food court where freshman Diana Craun was announced as the winner of the food court naming contest. West 82, which is the longitude of the unit, was the name that stood out from approximately 2,000 entries. Already named on the first floor is Latitude 39, the center's fine dining restaurant.

"It was a tough decision, and while there were many creative and thoughtful ideas, this entry stood out from the crowd," Student Senate President Morgan Allen said. "We wanted to pick out something that was creative and representative of the community."

Photo by Rick FaticaThe contest, sponsored by Auxiliary Services and Student Senate, awarded Craun a $250 gift card to Baker University Center.

Another significant event was the dedication of Ohio University's first Women's Center. Krendl, First lady Deborah McDavis and the Interim Director of the Women's Center Beatrice Selotlegeng expressed the importance of having the space, which serves as a catalyst to promote awareness, understanding and action about gender, equity and women's issues in the university and surrounding communities.

"The Women's Center will serve as a safe haven -- it would provide a place to air problems, find understanding and help seek knowledge and support with issues," Krendl said. "It would be a quiet place in the eye of the storm."

The center is also committed to serving as a resource to connect students and community to research, scholarships, grants, internships and careers.

Aside from the many special dedications and ceremonial events, the center also welcomed film writer/producer of "Million Dollar Baby" and "Crash," Bobby Moresco, who presented a public lecture. In the casual Q and A setting, the Academy Award winner fielded questions from the audience on a variety of topics, ranging from thoughts about his film to tips to getting into the film industry. He provided both a unique view and an insider's perspective of Hollywood.

Throughout the day MASS Ensemble, an internationally renowned musical performance group, played in the center's atrium. The Earth Harp, known as the world's largest stringed instrument, ran from the fifth floor balcony down to the stage on the second floor. The feature performance at 5:30 p.m. was filled with an overflow crowd watching from the third, fourth and fifth floors. When the ensemble wasn't performing, children were given the opportunity to try playing the harp with a provided pair of gloves.

The MASS Ensemble director, Bill Close, said that he was happy to celebrate the new space.

"This building is beautiful, and the diagonal lines are perfect for the sound of the harp," he said. "We always try to find venues that will work with the instruments."

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Media Contact: Media Relations Coordinator Jessica Stark at 740-597-2938 or starkj@ohio.edu

Meryl Smith is a student writer with University Communications and Marketing

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