Monday, August 11, 2008

Topping Off

One the real pleasures that I have as dean is serving as the spokesperson for the Graduate School of Management. Whenever a visiting CEO comes to town to speak to a class, I try to be on hand to give a welcome from the School. When we have prospective students on campus, I try to be there to thank them for considering UC Davis for their education. I am the spokesperson for our Welcome Lunch for entering MBA students, and I say good bye at Commencement, when we celebrate completion of the MBA program. I speak for the GSM at many proceedings during the months in between.

Today I got to play this role at a small but meaningful event, the "topping off" of our new under-construction building, Gallagher Hall.

This is a celebration by Ironworkers who are putting together the steel structure that frames our new building. Ironworkers traditionally mark the completion of the highest structural element with the ceremonial placement of a white beam signed by the workers, and any dignitaries who care to participate. A small group of us showed up to add our signatures to the beam, which was hoisted in place with a California redwood tree and American flag riding along. Fir trees are the usual species of tree used to top off buildings , given the European origins of the topping off tradition, but somehow it seemed right that a redwood go along for the ride. I spoke a few words about reaching an important milestone, and Associate Dean Woodruff told everyone that he had spent a summer working as an Ironworker and that this was the penultimate experience of that career. We all drank sparkling grape juice and seemed pleased to be there.

It was a low-key event, especially compared to the noisy celebration we had had just months earlier at the groundbreaking. At that event we had hundreds of supporters, alumni, faculty and administrators, not to mention the Cal Aggie Band-Uh and hundreds of balloons. The champagne flowed. This event, held at lunchtime on a hot August Monday, brought together just the workers and those of us who have been doing the dreaming and preparation to make this building a reality. The people who showed up today had gone to dozens of planning meetings, had negotiated contracts, had pitched the project to the University of California Regents, had raised money, and in many other ways made contributions that will never be visible to the public who admire our finished building. But we all signed the beam and know there is a little bit of evidence of our efforts inside.

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