A Place to Call Their Own
Making history at the future site of new Student Life Pavilion
by Kate Callen
Ground Breaking
Architectural rendering courtesy of Hom + Goldman Architects, PC

It was a moment frozen in time: A crowd of 300 thronged around a giant yellow backhoe on a graded dirt lot, smiled for the photographer perched on a ladder and looked into the future of student life at Alcalá Park.

When the four-story, 50,000-square-foot center opens in Fall 2009, that particular image from the March 27 kickoff for the Student Life Pavilion will be on display. It makes for a perfect fit, as the photo not only has a historic pedigree — echoing a 1949 picture of Bishop Charles Buddy and Mother Rosalie Hill at the original USD construction site — but it captures a celebration in which excitement about the new campus hub was equaled by elation over the NCAA Tournament appearances of the men’s and women’s basketball teams.

Situated east of the Hahn University Center, the pavilion will boast stunning views, wireless Internet access and an outdoor performance amphitheater.

“It will change the lives of every student at the University of San Diego,” Associated Students President Matt Thelen told the gathering. “It will offer students a place to relax, gather with friends and cheer on future Torero victories.”

Every aspect of the pavilion’s intricate design reflects student demand for a building all their own that will create a palpable sense of community. “The key word is ‘transparency,’” said Thomas Cosgrove, associate vice president for student affairs and a prime mover behind the capital project. “Students want to see and be seen. The mercado will overlook the main dining area, and the main dining area will pour out onto the plaza mayor. This will be a very exciting facility.”

Cosgrove and Greg Zackowski, executive director of the Hahn University Center, headed up a 14-member committee that began studying the prospects for a new student union in 2004. Enthusiasm for the project was so strong that an April 2005 student referendum to help fund the center through a fee increase won 76 percent of the vote.

“Students saw the need,” recalls Zackowski. “The committee went out to 35 different meetings, and the students made the presentations. Over the years, a lot of space inside the Hahn University Center was set aside for specific programs and reasons. But a student center is supposed to be a place where you come for no reason. With this new pavilion, we’re trying to bring that back.”

Designed by Hom & Goldman Architects, the Pavilion will cost $36 million to build. An estimated $21 million will be covered by general obligation bonds, with the remaining $15 million to be raised by private support in a drive that Cosgrove is committed to. “I’ve been here 35 years, so I’ve made a lot of connections with alumni,” he says.

At the kickoff, Thelen remarked that, even though he will graduate before the pavilion opens, “I will enjoy it as an alumnus.

I’m very excited for future generations of Toreros.” Through donations to the pavilion, he added, “we can set a trend of giving and supporting our university, and leave a lasting legacy here at the University of San Diego.”

Darlene Marcos Shiley, chair of the Board of Trustees, appeared at the ceremony in a radiant blue tunic (“I pawed through my clothing this morning looking for Torero blue, and I found it!” she quipped) and summed up the mood of the crowd. “If there’s anything we’ve proved in the last couple of weeks, it’s this: It’s all about heart.”

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