The word of the day was “historic” at the Allegheny College’s Bicentennial Plaza ribbon cutting ceremony Friday afternoon.
“This day is big and it’s a reflection of our institution and the history of our institution,” Allegheny Student Government President Larry Hailsham said. “I think Allegheny is moving in a beautiful direction and as students we have the opportunity to seize the momentum of the bicentennial.”
Whether they were referring to 43 cast-bronze plaques that celebrate milestones in Allegheny’s history, the humble founding of the college or moving into Allegheny’s third century, every speaker used the word historic to commemorate the college’s 200th year.
A huge gathering of students, faculty, administration, alumnus and community members were present to celebrate the occasion.
“Our relationship with (Meadville) and region is deep and enduring,” Allegheny College President James Mullen said.
The Bicentennial Plaza, located in front of Schultz Banquet Hall, will be used for a number of activities, including talks, plays, concerts and other special events, including Commencement. The plaza sits at the end of the Historic Walkway, which is lined with 43 plaques and starts at Bentley Hall.
This year’s seniors will be first class to graduate from the Bicentennial Plaza.
Robert Smith, chairman of the board of trustees, introduced Friday’s speakers, which included Provost and Dean of Students Linda DeMeritt; Hailsham; Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly; Republican state Rep. Michele Brooks; Republican state Rep. Brad Roae; Crawford County Commissioner Jack Lynch; and Meadville Mayor Christopher Soff. All presented a proclamation honoring Allegheny’s bicentennial.
Smith said there were four constants in life: French Creek will keep flowing; Allegheny College; the City of Meadville; and we can count on it raining at every event.
“This is a special day to celebrate the symbiotic relationship between Allegheny, Meadville and Crawford County,” Smith said.
Smith wielded the scissors at ribbon-cutting time, while the rest of the dignitaries held the blue and gold ribbon.
Mullen, who is the 21st president in Allegheny’s history, said he is ready to lead the college into its third century.
“I think it’s one of the great honors in higher education to be president of the 32nd oldest college in America during it’s bicentennial,” Mullen said. “It’s a privilege to be a part of setting the foundation of Allegheny’s third century and the generations of students that will follow.”
Mullen said the impact Allegheny has had on American history is very powerful and the plaques on the walkway point that out for all to see.
Sean Watt, a senior from Skaneateles, N.Y., was pleased to see more students at the event, saying these kind of ceremonies are usually geared toward the “important” people and students are usually left out. Watt said he feels students are the most important part of the college and wants to encourage more to come to campus events.
Carrie Richardson Reeves, who graduated from Allegheny College in 1973, recently retired from higher education administration. As an African-American woman she wants to let current Allegheny students of color know there were people who came before them.
“Even though I had hard times as a student, this institution gave me a lot,” Reeves said.
Senior Alex Neal, a student representative to the college’s bicentennial committee who is from the communications department, was impressed with the positive remarks everybody made during the speeches.
“We get all bogged down in our work and forget everyone’s perspective from the outside and how Allegheny is perceived,” Neal said.
Junior Autumn Parker of Erie also worked on the bicentennial committee and her father graduated from Allegheny in 1989. Parker noted the first African-American graduated from Allegheny in 1908.
“That shows Allegheny was open to diversifying their student culture when many colleges were not,” Parker said.
Parker likes how Allegheny is a large community and the students’ opinions are heard and valued.
“It is a huge community/family feeling,” Parker said.
Following the ribbon cutting, a tree was planted to honor William Tillotson. Mullen said Tillotson and his wife, Carol, were both Allegheny graduates and one of the most beloved families in Allegheny history.
William Tillotson is a 1952 graduate who passed away four years ago. Funds donated in his name helped pay the costs of building the plaza.
Carol was in attendance on Friday and said she and William met her third day on campus.
“Allegheny has been a big part of my life for 64 years,” Carol said.
The tree planting was a surprise to Carol, who said she was “overwhelmed and humbled.”
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