April 11, 2003
CUA Dedicates New Edward J. Pryzbyla University Center
Hundreds Witness Blessing of Building, Hear Tribute to ‘Eddie’
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Catholic University of America dedicated its newly completed Edward J. Pryzbyla University Center on Thursday, April 10, capping off a week of special events for students, staff, faculty, alumni and trustees who came to see the university’s new central gathering place.
On Thursday afternoon, the center’s glass atrium was filled with guests and the sounds of a brass quintet playing Jean-Joseph Mouret’s Rondeau Fanfare, the theme of PBS’ “Exxon Mobil Masterpiece Theater.”
The Fanfare was a fitting accompaniment to dedicate CUA’s new “masterpiece,” said Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, archbishop of Washington and CUA chancellor, who delivered an invocation to the assembled crowd on the second and third levels of the Pryzbyla Center.
The Very Rev. David M. O'Connell, CUA's president, blessed the building with holy water and prayers, and presented a large wooden cross to the students of Catholic University, which was mounted on a wall in the atrium of the second floor.
“Today, Founders’ Day, we are about to dedicate the 55th building on our campus,” Father O’Connell said after the blessing, during his dedication remarks. “It would not be an exaggeration to say that it represents yet another dream realized. For those of us who studied here or who walked these many acres in years past, CUA has come of age. With this newest facility, the community that is The Catholic University of America has a place to gather, a ‘living room’ for all us to share our campus life together, different from a classroom, library or lab; different from a residence or dining hall; different still from the old University Center or Rathskellar. We no longer have to go somewhere else ‘just to hang out.’ We now have a place to call our own.”
Other special guests at the dedication included D.C. Council Member Vincent B. Orange (D-Ward 5), former CUA President Brother Patrick Ellis, members of the board of trustees, and representatives of Bohlin Cywinski Jackson and the Clark Construction Group, the firms that designed and built the center, respectively. Margaret Higgins, CUA’s former dean of students and chairperson of the Pryzbyla Committee, flew in from her new position as vice president for university life at the University of San Francisco to help clip the red ribbon stretching across the university center stairs. Silver Spring, Md., residents Beverly, Sarah and Rebecca Lynch, family members of the late Edward J. Pryzbyla, also attended the ceremony.
“The Pryz,” as the center is informally called, stands as a lasting reminder of the 1925 CUA graduate, whose gift — combined with a District of Columbia bond initiative — made construction of the center possible. The Chicopee, Mass., native, who passed away seven months after the Pryzbyla Center’s official groundbreaking in 2000, was a longstanding supporter of the university.
Susan Pervi, vice president for student life, gave a tribute to “Eddie,” as he liked to be called. She recalled the first time she met CUA’s most generous benefactor.
“Eddie had arrived at the steps of McMahon Hall about 40 minutes ahead of schedule for his traditional fall walking tour of campus. When I greeted him as Mr. Pryzbyla he promptly replied, ‘Oh heck, call me Eddie! But here’s your first test of the morning: spell my last name correctly.’ Thankfully, I got it right,” Pervi said. “He went on — and I quote from a small slip of paper I recovered from my old Daytimer calendar — ‘While we’re waiting for the others, I want you to promise to help me show students and staff how to love and care for this university as much as I do.’”
The ribbon-cutting ceremony highlighted a celebration week that included a production of Leonard Bernstein’s MASS, student concerts and comedy shows, coffee hours, academic lectures and the grand opening of the two-floor CUA Bookstore, operated by Follett.
Though the primary purpose of the $27 million building is to serve as the university community’s central gathering place, the 104,000-square-foot facility also has ample room for conferences and already has been booked for a major academic summit in June.
The World Archeological Congress will hold its annual conference at the Pryzbyla Center from June 21 to 26, 2003, the first time the congress has met in the United States. About 500 people are expected to attend. Forty other groups are slated to visit the university this summer. About half of those will hold events at the center, and all will use its dining facilities.
The Pryzbyla Center boasts nine meeting rooms and a Great Room capable of seating 450 people for meals and 800 for lectures; window-enclosed lounges with beautiful views of the campus; a convenience store; office and storage space for 31 student organizations; computer and audio-visual technology, including wireless Internet capabilities throughout; and consolidated campus dining. Dining facilities previously located in three campus buildings have been replaced by the center’s dining hall for residential students and a food court. The food court’s seating area includes a raised stage platform for use during daytime and evening performances.
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