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Officials announce plan to transform campus
March 9, 1998

More than 300 faculty, staff and students packed von der Mehden Recital Hall Tuesday afternoon as President Philip E. Austin and Chancellor Mark A. Emmert formally announced the completion of UConn's campus master plan and the birth of a new University logo.

Combined with a renewed emphasis on academics, a new internal budgeting system, enhanced fundraising and, for the first time in years, state funding that matched the University's budget request, the announcements completed one phase of the University's transformation. All the efforts point toward the University's goal, as stated in the Strategic Plan adopted by the Board of Trustees three years ago, to become one of the best universities in the nation.

"Without a doubt, the master plan is the single most important document in the history of the University of Connecticut," Emmert said. "Not because it is a plan, but because it is a plan that is coming to fruition, on time and in real time. It is not about how to do it, but simply doing it."

Emmert's comments were supported by Stephen F. Troost, a principal with Johnson, Johnson and Roy of Ann Arbor, Mich., the design firm that led the 18-month planning effort.

"There are many, many universities that have a plan, but it is just that - a plan. You have a rare opportunity to not only have a plan, but the funding and the commitment to put it in place," said Troost, whose firm has developed master plans for several dozen major institutions, including the Universities of Michigan and Wisconsin.

As he spoke, workers 100 yards to the left of von der Mehden were finishing their day's work on the new South Campus residence halls, expected to be completed by September. And, less than 100 feet to the right, excavation equipment operators were ending another day of site preparations on the new fine arts complex, to be completed in 1999.

Buildings, however, are secondary to people, the speakers concurred, noting that the highlight of the plan was the emergence of a series of "cross-axial paths" throughout campus, keyed by the Academic Way, a wide, bench- and tree-lined path extending from South Campus to North Eagleville Road, intersected by a pedestrian path (now Fairfield Road) in front of Homer Babbidge Library that will create a forum at the center of campus.

"It will be a clearly identified forum, a place that all roads lead to, a place that will let you know you are at the heart of a great University," Emmert said.

Officials said excavation work on Fairfield Road could begin as soon as this summer. Work on the Academic Way will begin as South Campus is completed.

The plan also creates a series of "neighborhoods," or quads, by using new buildings in concert with existing buildings to square off grassy, landscaped areas complete with pathways, lighting, and seating, to help forge inter-action among students, faculty and staff.

The plan "brings coherence and order heretofore missing from UConn," Emmert said, adding that it does so "In an exciting, dynamic and energetic way."

Coherence is also the watchword for the University's new logo, created during a six-month period by the graphic design firm of Cummings and Good. The firm's principals - UConn alums Janet Cummings and Peter Good - said they were overwhelmed by the nearly 100 different looks, logos, and colors they discovered, on the Storrs campus alone, when they began their task in August 1997.

Like the master plan, the new design - which will be used on all signs, stationery, business cards, publications, lapel pins, merchandise and other items - is intended to bring order to the chaos, while also giving the University it's own simple and easily identifiable symbol. It replaces the current logo, which features the state seal - a symbol used by many state agencies and colleges.

Cummings and Good led the audience through the firm's design process, using slides to show the dozens of ideas, designs and styles they tried before settling on the final choice, a three-leaf oak cluster and two acorns.

Besides the tie-in to state history and the Charter Oak, research during the project turned up information that members of UConn's second graduating class, in 1884, celebrated Commencement in an oak grove behind Holcomb Hall. The area also was a popular gathering place for meetings.

The oak, Good said, represents wisdom, longevity, and hospitality. It conveys a strong, enduring and multifaceted institution, with a rich variety of schools, colleges, and campuses, including the UConn Health Center, all of which also will use the seal. The Husky dog will continue to represent the University's athletic interests. A standards book, with guidelines for using the logo, is expected to be available soon.

Together, the master plan and the new logo symbolize a new beginning for the University, President Austin said. "This effort is long overdue. When I came here about 18 months ago, I was told the campus had sunk into disrepair. I have the luxury of not having suffered through those years, and I thank all of you who have kept the University on course during that time. But now, we must forget about it, and dedicate ourselves to a renewed state of optimism," he said.

Richard Veilleux