Academic Commons formally dedicated at SU

In a touching tribute to his mother, at a ribbon cutting ceremony for the grand Salisbury University building that bears her name, Michael Guerrieri praised her for “the goodness in her heart.”

“She was always doing for others. She left a love forever in my heart that continues to grow. What a comforting, uplifting, final surprise she left,” Guerrieri said about Patricia Louise “Patty Lou” Guerrieri, whose family donated a generous gift in her memory.

Guerrieri spoke at the ceremony Thursday morning, a standing-room-only event moved off Red Square and out of the rain to the fourth-floor assembly hall.

In memory of Mrs. Guerrieri, who died in 2010, her family donated $8 million to SU.

Dr. Janet Dudley-Eshbach, university president, called the ribbon cutting ceremony “a momentous occasion” and thanked the family for honoring “Patty Lou,” as Mrs. Guerrieri was affectionately known. She suggested referring to the new building as the PLC, for “Patty Lou Commons” instead of GAC for Guerrieri Academic Commons.

Costing $117 million, the 221,000-square-foot structure was not built to simply provide a bigger and better library for SU’s 8,700 students, “but to transform the learning experience for students and for the university at a critical time in its evolution,” Dudley-Esbach said.

“The library was intentionally placed in the heart of main campus because we see it becoming the epicenter of learning in what Thomas Jefferson referred to as the “academic village,” she said.

Patricia Guerrieri’s portrait is in the lobby.

“We would not be standing before such a magnificent structure today without the generosity and support of the Guerrieri family. Through the decades, they have given so much to this campus and to the Eastern Shore. Their name is not new to us — the Guerrieri University Center, The Guerrieri Laboratory Wing, Guerrieri scholarships. At pivotal moments, this family has been here for our students, for those who teach them and for residents of our region,” Dudley-Esbach said.

GAC is about four times larger than the old Blackwell Library and contains the Writing Center, Center for Student Achievement, Math Emporium, Faculty Center, Graduate Commons, Office of Instructional Design and Delivery and Information Technology Help Desk.

There are more than 600 computers and ports and a 3D printing lab.

The Edward H. Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History and Culture is on the fourth floor.

Also on the top floor is the assembly hall, with a patio that offers a view of the campus, and banks of theatrical lights commonly found on Broadway. Recitals and lectures will be in the hall, as well as dinners and receptions.

On the roof is a 20,000-square-foot lawn of sedum and other low-growing plants, for collection and filtering of rainwater.

There’s a 62-foot atrium lit by skylights.

The staircase, Dudley-Esbach said, was patterned for a Maryland blue crab.

Perhaps the most striking feature is the 147-foot carillon tower, the highest point on campus, which will house a 48-bell instrument. Dudley-Esbach said she hoped to hear the bells peal on Thursday, but they will be installed later this year at another ceremony.

She thanked Bill Church of Greenville, who donated the bells in memory of his partner, Samuel R. Brown.

GAC features a two-story café with surfaces made from recycled documents. Hungry Minds Express and Rise Up Coffee are near the 24-hour study space.

Among menu items is the Dr. Janet South of the Border Burger, spicy and with avocado, named for Dudley-Esbach, a Latin American scholar.

SU’s president joked with James Brady, chairman of the University System of Maryland Board of Regents, teasing that he never had a burger named for him.

“Well, as a Brady, you’ve never had a Bunch named for you. So there,” Brady said to laughter when he spoke at the ceremony.

“Wow! What a place,” he said, recalling touring SU 20 years ago, then again Thursday, and marveling at the growth.

Delegate Adrienne Jones, speaker pro tem of the Maryland House of Delegates, asked former Delegate Norman Conway, who was in the audience, to join her on stage.

She thanked him for, in 2012, when he was chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, speaking of the need for GAC.

“We can be very proud of Salisbury University,” Conway said. He and his wife studied there in the early 1960s, when the campus had only four buildings. Grinning, he said, “It wasn’t hard to get lost.”

“This university makes us very proud,” he said.

Certainly, that pride extends to the Guerrieri family, who admired Mrs. Guerrieri, characterized by son Michael as a natural athlete who often played catch with him. “She could throw and she could catch just fine, nails and all,” he said, amusing the audience.

The mother of two boys and three girls, she attended SU when it was Maryland State Teachers College. On campus, she met her husband, who couldn’t help noticing the “little blond with a vivacious personality.”

A gardener, seamstress, collector of shells and all gifts from the sea, antique lover and woman of natural curiosity who marveled at nature, Guerrieri was described by her husband as someone who could “do it all,” Michael Guerrieri said.

“He said, ‘I never met anyone like her … She was so down to earth and she could be so funny,'” his son recalled.

He presented university officials with a cutting from one of his mother’s much-loved plants and talked about how excited she became when it was ready to bloom. When  they see it, he said, with a quiet smile, “Maybe, just maybe, you’ll think of Patty Lou.”

 

Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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