Alvarez Dedication Celebrates "Doers and Dreamers"
November 6, 2001
"This building is a lively monument to Davidson's doers and to her dreamers."
Davidson's Union Board President Will Parker '02 offered those words on Thursday, October 25, at dedication ceremonies for the Alvarez College Union.
Hundreds of celebrants gathered for the 5 p.m. main ceremony, following the gathering of another crowd earlier in the day to dedicate the C. Shaw Smith 900 Room. That intimate performance hall inside Alvarez Union honors the late C. Shaw Smith '39. Smith was the college's first union director, and championed for many years construction of just the state-of-the-art type structure that the college has now constructed.
President Robert Vagt welcomed guests in the Mariam Cannon Hayes Amphitheatre to the Alvarez Union dedication, and offered words of appreciation to the donors, trustees, members of the planning committee, architects, and workers for making the long-held dream a reality.
Vagt acknowledged the six-week delay of the ceremony, caused by the terrorist attacks. But he pointed out that the building received a spiritual dedication during that time, since it has become a gathering place for the community in the wake of the attacks.
He said, "On the evening of September 11, almost 800 students, faculty and staff filled this union in an effort ostensibly to come to grips with what had transpired that day. But I think, in fact, the real purpose was to grip each other tightly in reaction to events that we had yet to comprehend."
Remembering other occasions of both joy and sorrow, special events and everyday routine, President Vagt noted, "Even after only a couple of months of operation it is very difficult to imagine how we lived without the Alvarez Union."
Former Dean of Students Will Terry '54 offered a dedicatory prayer. Other representatives of the college community, including Union Director William Brown '70, and current Vice President for Student Life Tom Shandley, also shared their thoughts and gratitude. Trustee and planning committee co-chair Gretchen Johnston thanked the Alvarez family, the Knobloch family, the Duke Endowment, and Mariam Cannon Hayes, whose leading contributions paved the way for the complex.
Representing the faculty and the Smith family, art professor C. Shaw Smith, Jr., called the Alvarez Union a "house of serendipity" in which the principles of liberal arts learning are lived and tested daily.
The building's naming benefactor, Carlos Alvarez of San Antonio, Tex., spoke at the podium flanked by his wife, Malu, and Davidson daughter, Malu '02. He recalled poignantly his recent naturalization as a United States citizen, and his visit to New York City to celebrate that event shortly before the attack there. He offered the building and the community strength that will grow inside it as his family's gift to the United States.
The dedication concluded with the unveiling of the building's name, and presentation to the family of an oversized, ceremonial Alvarez family Cat Card. They swiped it through an oversized card reader to officially open the doors--a mode of building entry familiar to all Davidson students. Hundreds of guests then streamed in to share a meal and enjoy live entertainment on the building's three main levels.
In closing, Alvarez offered students a wish list of hopes for the facility. He said, "I wish that this be a friendly place where your relationships with your fellow students develop and transform into enduring friendships that enrich your lives forever. I wish that this place be an inspiring place, where over a cup of coffee you would find those wonderful thoughts translated into words to create the perfect paper. And finally, I wish that this be a place of good fortune where your mailbox delivers the great job offer, that anxiously awaited grad school acceptance, and all sorts of good news!"
Davidson is a highly selective independent liberal arts college for 1,600 students. Since its establishment in 1837, the college has graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars and is consistently ranked among the top liberal arts colleges in the country by U.S. News and World Report magazine. Davidson is currently engaged in "Let Learning Be Cherished," a $250 million campaign in support of student financial assistance, academic resources, and community life.