University Breaks Ground for Pryzbyla Center

Joined by students, alumni, benefactors and other special guests, the Very Rev. David M. O’Connell, C.M., president of The Catholic University of America, presided over a triumphant groundbreaking for the Pryzbyla Center, CUA’s long-awaited university center.

"This center, which has been a dream of so many of us for so long, is about to see the light of day," Father O’Connell said.

Students wore bright red shirts printed with the words, "Thank You, Eddie" in recognition of Edward J. Pryzbyla, the 95-year-old alumnus and benefactor who has given his support, and his name, to the center. Everyone at the April 14 celebration sported red buttons with the slogan, "Meet Me at the Pryz."

Mr. Pryzbyla, of Chicopee, Mass., made a significant contribution to the center, and the celebration centered on his generosity and commitment to CUA.


 The 1925 CUA graduate has already done much to beautify the CUA campus: he donated hundreds of trees and other plantings throughout campus and provided the funds for picturesque Pryzbyla Plaza and an arbor next to the present university center. However, he has championed the cause of a university center for more than a decade.

"At last," Mr. Pryzbyla said, looking out at a crowd of more than 200 who applauded him with a standing ovation. "Somebody pinch me to make sure I’m not dreaming."

As he stood on St. John’s Hill, site of the new center, Mr. Pryzbyla recalled that the only "university center," during his days at CUA was "the lobby of Gibbons Hall."

"I am honored, I am flattered, I am a little bit proud, and very happy that I had the means," to help make the project a reality, Mr. Pryzbyla said.

He warned current and future CUA students to pronounce and spell his name correctly, "or you’ll have to come back for another semester."

Mayor Anthony A. Williams and Ward Five Councilman Vincent Orange also attended the ceremony, receiving thanks for their support of the District of Columbia Revenue Bond issue that will also help fund the center, residence halls and other improvements at CUA.

Mayor Williams said he was pleased the district’s revenue bond program could support growth at CUA and he applauded the emergence of a productive partnership between the district and the University.

"I’m proud we have been able to use our revenue bond program to support the critical needs here," Mayor Williams said.

Speakers acknowledged Mr. Pryzbyla’s special role in championing and supporting the center.

"Your commitment and dedication to alma mater, Ed, your magnificent and unparalleled generosity, your supportive presence and love for this University and for your Church are a model to us all today," Father O’Connell said. "And I offer you as an example to each of the students here present, in whatever path your life leads, to follow. Without a doubt, Edward J. Pryzbyla is one of The Catholic University of America’s greatest citizens."

Margaret M. Higgins, dean of students and head of the committee planning the Pryzbyla Center, compared the commencement of the project to the Christmas she found a Barbie Dream House under her tree. Directing most of her speech to Mr. Pryzbyla, she thanked him for a gift that will make a difference in the lives of generations of CUA students.

"Eddie, you are telling (the students) today that not only are they the finest student body anywhere in the United States of America, but we are so proud of what they accomplish both inside and outside of the classroom that we want to trumpet it to the world," she said.

The ceremony was framed by prayer. Cardinal James A. Hickey, archbishop of Washington and chancellor of the University, began the event with an invocation that reflected the atmosphere of hope and excitement for the future.

"Through the presence of Your Spirit, may this university continue to bear special witness to Your Divine truth and love," Cardinal Hickey prayed.

And after Mr. Pryzbyla joined Father O’Connell, Mayor Williams, Cardinal Hickey and CUA Trustee Robert F. Comstock in turning the first earth at the site, the Rev. Robert Schlageter, O.F.M.-Conv., director of Campus Ministry, offered a closing prayer. "We are so very grateful, Lord," he prayed. "Grateful for all of the blessings you shower down on us each day. Grateful for this new beginning. And most grateful for those who have made this day possible."

The event was the second groundbreaking in a week at CUA: on Monday, April 11, the University broke ground for a new residence hall that will house 345 students when it opens in the fall of 2001. The Pryzbyla Center, designed by the architectural firm Bohlin Cywinski Jackson is expected to open a year later.