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YPSILANTI - Eastern Michigan University will celebrate the positive difference it has made and continues to make in the lives of its students, its community and its country with a year-long Sesquicentennial celebration in 1999.
The Sesquicentennial is important for many reasons, said Laurence N. Smith, vice president for university marketing and student affairs and chair of the Sesquicentennial Steering Committee. "When the history of a school is recalled, people remember big events, names on buildings and perhaps part of the common lore of the school. But to me, it is important to stop and look back at the details.
"The University's growth really came about as a result of large and small contributions over the past 150 years by thousands of people," Smith said. "They are the ones who worked on campus and taught classes. They are the ones who helped our students become outstanding teachers, scientists, accountants, artists and health care professionals, to mention only a few of the many professions our students have entered. These are the people and events that ultimately wove the fabric of our University's history."
Kenneth W. Stevens, professor of communications and theatre arts (CTA) is vice chair of the committee. "The leaders Larry Smith called together met for months. The programming generated from every corner of the university -- from extremely active student organizations and the academic departments to administrative and support areas.
"You will see a year of varied types of celebrations," Stevens said. "Our Sesquicentennial year will include big public events, the arts, athletics and scholarly activities that will reflect 150 years of history. The Sesquicentennial is focused on how we can use the knowledge of our past to continue the success that Eastern has had."
Some remembrances will be small. Currently in Quirk, a display on a bulletin board traces the history of EMU theatre to its founding in 1875. Others will be large, colorful and masterful including a Sesquicentennial black-tie dinner and ball at the Ypsilanti Marriott, March 26. In the summer, 150 trees will be planted in the Ypsilanti area as a living memorial to the University's century and a half of service.
Family Day and Homecoming, Oct. 9, is expected to bring thousands of alumni and friends to campus for events highlighted by the release of a book that provides a Sesquicentennial portrait of EMU's history, reunions, the Convocation of Excellence and the John W. Porter College of Education building dedication.
And in December, there will be another formal gala as a finale to the year-long celebration. The Sesquicentennial closing in Pease Auditorium will feature a reception, the unveiling of a commissioned sculpture and the inaugural presentation of a commissioned piece for a string quartet.
Co-chairing the Sesquicentennial Operational Team are Rita Abent, executive director of marketing and communications, and Dennis Beagen, head of the communication and theatre arts department.
"Each month will provide an opportunity to celebrate 150 years of shaping the way America learns," Abent said.
"This is going to be a wonderful year," Beagen added. "We're working with volunteers who are developing a fullness and richness for the celebration."
"Celebrations bring out the best in us," Smith said. "They afford us the opportunity to focus on the common horizon that binds us all together rather than focusing on the little things that sometimes divide us. The University has lasted a long time and will last a long time because underlying all our efforts and all our concerns is the knowledge that we truly do make a positive difference in the lives our students, our school, our communities and ourselves."
Founded in 1849, Eastern Michigan University is the fifth largest university in Michigan with 23,000 students, offering more than 180 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral fields of study in arts and sciences, business, education, health and human services, and technology. Founded as the state's first institution for teacher training, EMU remains the country's largest producer of K-12 educational personnel.
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