Twenty years ago this November, a group of students, faculty, staff, alumni, and other friends of Santa Clara walked across campus to the Leavey Event Center. We had just attended a Mass marking the transition in Santa Clara’s presidency from William Rewak, S.J., to Paul Locatelli, S.J., and we were heading for the formal inauguration ceremony. We all crossed The Alameda. The faculty lined up outside Orradre Library. We passed by Graham and Campisi residence halls and an outdoor tennis complex as we proceeded into the Leavey Event Center with its enormous inflated dome.
The landscape we traversed then is much different now. Those differences tell us much about the journey that we have all taken at Santa Clara over these past two decades. They symbolize much of what we have gained and what we had to leave behind, and they speak of the communities we have formed.
Look both ways: The paved thoroughfare through the heart of campus became a bucolic commons. Photo: Robert H. Cox, SCU Archives / Charles Barry
A campus divided
The first thing we had to do was cross The Alameda. Back in 1988, you could not go too far around campus before you bumped into State Highway 82, which ran right through campus between the law school and the engineering center. By the mid-1980s, some 40,000 vehicles passed through campus on those four lanes every day. Rerouting the road had been discussed by the University and the city of Santa Clara since the 1950s. The pace of the talks picked up after the tragic death of anthropology Professor Mark Lynch, who was killed by a hit-and-run driver.
In the fall of 1988, construction on the reroute was already well advanced, and students in Bannan Hall could hear the heavy equipment working feverishly behind Buck Shaw Stadium. The road was closed the next year. It was replaced by a landscaped mall, which Stephen Privett, S.J., then academic vice president, once joked was the only thing on campus he had never heard anyone complain about!
The Alameda reroute points to two important aspects of campus life over the past two decades: construction and community. In terms of construction, 11 new buildings have been erected. In addition, a number of older buildings, especially those housing the science labs, have been renovated. Individual initiative played an important role in this enterprise. The lab renovation process was jumpstarted when the head of the chemistry department, Larry Nathan, set up a video camera in one of the labs. He then set off a smoke bomb and videotaped what happened next. Then he had his dean sit down to watch the tape, showing how agonizingly long it took for the antiquated ventilation system to suck out all the smoke.
The architecture of a campus profoundly shapes the identity of a university. The glass atrium of the Arts and Sciences building, for instance, is bright and airy. Completed in 1998, it bursts with possibility and points upward toward the future. Yet, at the same time, the entire building is firmly rooted in its surroundings. It blends well with the de Saisset Museum and the Mission Church, with which it shares a field of vision as one drives onto campus. Likewise, the Music and Dance building, opened in 1997, is linked both to Mayer Theatre, constructed in the 1970s, and to O’Connor Hall, one of the oldest buildings on campus.
This unity symbolizes a commonality of purpose that has been preserved and enhanced on campus. A fine illustration of this is a course developed by two professors whose offices are in these buildings. “The Physics of Dance” is a lab science course, and it combines the abstract study of physics by looking at the actual movements of the human body. Other faculty pairings, such as between biology and religious studies faculty, have resulted in equally creative interdisciplinary courses. One of the most important contributions of our three Centers of Distinction—the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics; the Center for Science, Technology, and Society; and the Ignatian Center for Jesuit Education—is that they provide an intellectual space in which faculty and students from different disciplines can reflect on common concerns.