Rome's Vision Celebrated in Naming
of South Campus Building
February 7, 2000
ewis B. Rome is a man who had a vision of what the University could and should become, President Philip E. Austin said Wednesday, as he dedicated the Commons Building in South Campus in Rome's honor.
"This building is the physical manifestation of Lew Rome's influence," Austin told the more than 200 people who attended the dedication. Rome was the chairman of the Board of Trustees and a strong advocate for UConn 2000, and oversaw the drafting of the University's strategic plan, yet his influence transcended both, Austin said.
"Lew Rome had a sense of what a public land grant university could become if we believed in ourselves and had others believe in us, too," he said.
Also speaking at the dedication was Lt. Gov. Jodi Rell who noted that Rome is the best cheerleader for the University, a man whose greatest asset is his insight.
"His blueprints were dreams. Now this campus is the destination for the best and brightest students in Connecticut, for the best researchers and ... for thousands who will reap the rewards of a renovated and rejuvenated campus."
Roger A. Gelfenbien, who succeeded Rome as chairman of the board, noted that Rome's tenure included the inception of the Nutmeg Scholarships, a program to attract Connecticut's top students, the acquisition of land for the downtown Stamford campus, the groundwork for joining Division IA football, and the 1995 twin coup of having President Clinton visit campus and having the women's basketball team win the national championship.
It was in 1995, too, that the old South Campus dormitories were razed - at Lew Rome's behest. "Lew Rome believes that to try is to risk failure. To fail to try is to risk everything," Trustee William R. Berkley said. "He wanted to tear down those buildings and create a facility that matches our vision for the University. He made us all believe dreams can become reality. In fact, Lew Rome made everyone evangelical about this place."
Also speaking at the dedication was student Robert Schuettler, chairperson of the South Campus Association, who said that it was a privilege to call what is known as "The Building" in Rome's honor, as a "small token of gratitude" to Rome. In return, Rome quipped, he is counting on Schuettler to make sure the students take care of the buildings so they stay in good shape.
Winner of the University Medal in 1997, Rome, an attorney, lobbyist, and former Bloomfield Mayor, said there is no reason why UConn should not be the best university in the nation. "We have the highest per capita income in the state, we have only one public research university, we have the best primary and secondary schools in the country. Why should we be less than we can be. If we don't stretch, ask the legislature to stretch and ask our donors to stretch, how can we ask students to stretch and reach to their greatest capacity?"
Rome, who graduated from UConn with a B.A. in history and a J.D. from the School of Law, said the University has "fulfilled not my dream, but the dream of many, many people in the state of Connecticut."