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WestConn Prepares for Centennial Celebration

DANBURY - Western Connecticut State University has come a long way over the last 99-plus years, and it's not about to slow down now.

WestConn is picking up the pace as the excitement builds with the countdown to the university's centennial celebration. Centennial committee members are working together to plan and organize WestConn's yearlong birthday party. During recent interviews they echoed similar themes of celebration, perspective, community involvement and anticipation not only about the centennial, but about the entire 2002-03 school year and years to come

"It's an opportunity that comes along once every 100 years, so I think it's a great privilege and a great opportunity to celebrate the university," said WestConn President Dr. James R. Roach, the committee's general chair. "We're looking at our past and looking forward to our future. It's a celebration where everybody is invited to the party the faculty, the staff, the students, the community. They're all invited not only to take part in the centennial, but also to help plan the centennial. It's a big family party."

The festivities will begin on Saturday, Sept. 14, with a gala day of special events and activities planned. Gov. John G. Rowland, Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, Connecticut State University Chancellor Dr. William J. Cibes Jr., and Dr. Roach are among the invited speakers.

Among the activities will be the unveilings of presidential portraits and the centennial sculpture, numerous receptions including one to honor outstanding graduates, a Founders Day luncheon, the Centennial Lecture series, and an evening gala concert with fireworks that will serve as the day's closing event. But that's only the start; the centennial is a yearlong celebration.

WestConn Registrar Henry Tritter, the committee's co-chair along with Director of Public Relations Dr. G. Koryoe Anim-Wright, said he is looking forward to "a really special" year.

"I think it's a recognition of how far we have come from the time when we were just a little teacher training school on White Street," Tritter said. "Now we're a comprehensive university. It's recognition of the past, but it's also a springboard to the future. I think it's something that the whole university community has begun to make a part of their thinking."

It's been part of Dr. Herbert Janick's thinking since 1999. That's when Janick, a history professor emeritus at WestConn and a committee member, started writing "A People's University: The Centennial History of Western Connecticut State University."

"That's been my concentration and obsession since then," said Janick, who started teaching history at WestConn in 1969 and retired in 1998.

Janick will sign copies of the book, which will be the first published by WestConn when it comes out in August, as part of the opening-day events.

"I think it's a good point to look back and see where we were," Janick said.

"The News-Times" President and Publisher Wayne Shepperd, a committee member and a co-chair of the Community subcommittee, said the centennial is already shining a positive spotlight on WestConn.

"There is a distinct hand-in-hand relationship between the university and the local business community," Shepperd said. "Ultimately, the better students that the university produces, the better our local businesses become. Selfishly, the business community certainly wants a more and more successful university."

Shepperd's subcommittee is charged with helping to get the word out about the centennial. He said local radio stations WLAD, WINE and WRKI, along with "The News-Times" and Comcast Cablevision, are already involved, with a focus on helping motivate alumni to return to the campus.

"The centennial gives the university an opportunity to tell people in our region and throughout the state that the academic programs at the school have grown immeasurably over the last several years," Shepperd said. "And the new buildings on campus have given the students a learning-friendly environment in which to enjoy the academic programs. This is simply a wonderful opportunity for the citizens of Danbury, in particular, to recognize how valuable a part of our city that WestConn is."

"It's a good opportunity to remind people who we are," Janick added. "We're a pretty important organization in the community, sometimes a hidden asset, but maybe this will make us a little more obvious."

Anim-Wright agrees.

"This certainly is an excellent opportunity for us to unveil the university," Anim-Wright said. "Most people have observed the campus growth from afar, driving on White Street. What we would like them to do during the centennial year is to experience the growth by visiting the campus taking a tour or attending the special events that we are planning for the centennial year."

To provide assistance for the centennial, the university has hired Mary Figueroa, an experienced special events planner.

"Mary has been wonderful," Anim-Wright said. "She joined us on April 1, and she already has made a significant impact on our planning efforts. For example, she has worked closely with Wayne Shepperd to firm up some of the commitments from area businesses and corporations on how they plan to support WestConn's centennial celebration."

To ensure smooth planning, the Centennial committee has been divided into the following subcommittees: alumni, athletics, community, faculty, PR & Events, and students. WestConn Vice President for Finance and Administration Richard Sullivan, who also chairs the PR & Events subcommittee, said plans are progressing nicely.

"We've established the whole program for Sept. 14, although there's still plenty more to be done," Sullivan said. "We've also established a budget for all the programs that will be held during the year. We're working with the academic and administrative departments' budgets and proposals. We're just finalizing things."

The 2002-03 schedule, he said, is packed with events that will involve the faculty and students, including the communication and theatre arts department's special production of "Meet Me in St. Louis," the "Educator of the Decade" reception, a "History of Nursing" presentation, alumni forums and reunions, Psychological Day, Mental Health Awareness Day, an alumni art show, a faculty lecture series, various music department performances, and a multimedia program in Alumni Hall.

For more information, call Figuero at (203) 837-8832, or visit

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