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Fall events make for memorable semester
December 15, 1997

As semesters go, fall 1997 has been quite a year.

Dozens of new professors took their places across campus. A new parking system and much-improved shuttle service, developed in anticipation of center campus becoming a pedestrian-only hub, possibly within 12-18 months, was announced, fine tuned, and accepted. Major initiatives were announced regarding how resources are allocated and how the Waterbury, Torrington and Hartford campuses could better reach the residents of those areas, who would like to see four-year degrees offered at those sites.

New buildings
Construction of UConn's first parking garage started - and is already nearly finished. The new chemistry building and South Campus rose with impressive speed, and sites were readied for a new heating and cooling plant and the long anticipated physics/biology complex, which will close off the technology quad.

"The tremendous amount of construction progress being made is a daily reminder of the public commitment to enhancing the University and its infrastructure," says President Philip E. Austin.

Gov. John G. Rowland visited campus in late September to announce the release of more than $10 million in non-UConn 2000 bonding money for renovations and additions to the School of Fine Arts and for construction of a new warehouse. And the state legislature in special session in October adopted a bill that gives military recruiters access to campus, allowing the University to escape a dilemma created by competing state and federal laws that could have cost UConn more than $50 million in federal funding.

Another special session, to decide whether funding should be made available to build a new football stadium, was called, then canceled when legislative support for the initiative crumbled.

The retirement plan, which claimed 380 UConn employees, including 115 faculty, allowed administrators to expand the diversity of the staff and focus resources in areas identified as priorities in the strategic plan. Both Austin and Chancellor Mark Emmert vow that UConn's hiring record will continue pushing forward on those fronts.

"Not only have we squeezed a whole year or two into one semester, it has been a dramatic year or two," says Emmert."There have been so many physical changes, we completed the long-awaited debate on I-A football, we brought in an exciting new group of faculty, we worked through the process of the early retirement initiative, we nearly concluded the master plan ... any one of these would be a year's worth of work on its own."

Outstanding speakers
Alan Greenspan addressed the campus in October, following a fall tradition of leaders speaking on campus that began with President Clinton in October 1995 and continued with former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in October 1996. Leaders from other universities came to Storrs as well, with the intention of staying in town for longer - Robert Smith was named vice provost for research and graduate education and dean of the graduate school, and Susan Steele became vice provost for undergraduate education and instruction.

Roger A. Gelfenbien, a partner with Andersen Consulting and father of Jill, class of 1996 and women's basketball and soccer player, became chair of the Board of Trustees.

This year's women's soccer team gave the community a thrill, advancing to the NCAA finals before bowing to the University of North Carolina. The field hockey team also moved into the NCAA tournament, and the men's soccer and football teams narrowly missed berths. The men's and women's basketball teams began their seasons with strings of victories.

In the first year of the state's matching gift program, a piece of the UConn 2000 legislation, members of the Institutional Advancement team pulled in a record $20 million in less than the two years authorized in the legislation. And, since the July renewal of the program, based on a 1:2 state match, another $1 million has already been pledged.

There was more.

Administrative changes
The chancellor's new system of resource allocation, decentralizing the University's operating budget and funding schools and departments based, in part, on University priorities, enrollment trends, and faculty productivity, was unveiled early in the semester. Then, at the end of the semester, Austin announced a major study of the University's administrative functions ( see story page 1).

Also during the past 14 weeks:

  • Construction began on a new University café, located on the second floor of the Student Union. The about 100-seat facility is expected to open early next semester;

  • Curtiss Porter was named interim director of the Stamford campus, and Susan Eisenhandler interim director of the Waterbury campus;

  • Lewis B. Rome, chair of the Board of Trustees during the development of the strategic plan and UConn 2000 initiatives, was awarded a University Medal, the highest honor the trustees can bestow;

  • The University's personnel and labor relations departments merged, becoming the Department of Human Resources. Virginia Miller was named vice chancellor for human resources;

  • Other visiting speakers included UConn alumnus and Nobel Laureate David M. Lee; '60s activist Angela Davis; and J. Richard "Dick" Munro, chairman of Genentech Inc. and former chairman of Time-Warner;

  • And, in perhaps the most dramatic event of the semester, the last pieces of scaffolding and plastic that have shrouded the Homer Babbidge Library for many years, were removed, revealing a contemporary structure with classic lines that will serve the University well, as new elements of the campus-wide master plan are rolled out that make the library and the area around it the focal point of the University.

During the semester, says Austin, "There were a lot of changes, enormous ups and one or two downs. That is all to be expected in an institution in the midst of profound transformation."

The spring semester, which begins January 21, 1998, promises to be no less exciting, starting from Day One, which will be a very special day, particularly in Stamford, when the University's new downtown campus formally opens, and another year begins.

Richard Veilleux