University to unveil a new wall featuring discoveries, achievements

The Minnesota Alumni Association funded the installation through private donations.

Heather L. Mueller

Although not everyone yet understands what they’re for, the East Bank’s new features have been hard to miss.

University President Bob Bruininks will unveil the $2.8 million Scholars Walk and Wall of Discovery, which runs from the McNamara Alumni Center to the front door of Appleby Hall, from noon to 2 p.m. today.

The 2,000-foot walkway includes limestone benches and lighted honorary monuments dedicated to distinguished University faculty members and alumni.

The Wall of Discovery, on the north side of the electrical engineering and computer science building, is a 3-D work of art that includes reproductions of original sketches, notes, drawings and letters from more than 90 University greats.

The two projects were funded through private donations to the Minnesota Alumni Association, said Larry Laukka, director of the faculty committee that determined which scholars and alumni to feature along the walk. Donors included Carlyle Anderson, Natalie Lund and Malcolm and Sonya McDonald.

Jack Kalyuzhny, a mechanical engineering graduate student, has been on campus since 1998. He said the new projects are “nice and clean,” but working to lower the cost of education might do more to recruit students than beautifying the campus.

“I think it’s a selling point, but it doesn’t reach the masses,” Kalyuzhny said.

Victor Bloomfield, professor and associate vice president for public engagement, said the wall is meant to look like an abstract blackboard that connects what goes on in classrooms with what comes out of them.

“To me it is not intended to honor people,” Bloomfield said. “It is intended to honor and symbolize discovery.”

The movement to beautify campus started with former University President Mark Yudof, Laukka said.

“There was a brisk response over a few years Ö that is what enabled all of these public amenities to take place,” Laukka said. “It’s the goodness and the gratuity of friends of the University and alums that thought it was a good idea to enhance that part of the campus but also to bring credit to scholars.”

Abdi Ahmed, a computer science graduate student, said the addition is “beautiful.”

“But I think that helping students or research would result in something that really matters,” he said.

Chad Bolstrom, a graduate student studying counseling psychology, said he might hang up less often when the alumni association calls if he gets to see where his money is going.

“We don’t nearly get enough art in our campus experience,” Bolstrom said.

For the University to be one of the top three research institutions in the world, he said, one thing the University has to do is “have a look and a feel that matches.”

Drew Sternal of Minneapolis firm L.A. Ink designed the wall. He said the project has been in the works since December 2004.

“I can only imagine this could influence just about anyone in the state,” Sternal said, pointing to some of the accomplishments featured on the wall.

“The Legislature tends to look at the University only one way and that’s money is going in,” he said. “What they really aren’t looking at is the return on investments and how do you put value on developing an artificial heart or a pacemaker or how do you put value on creating the world’s first supercomputer.”

He said the design for the wall gained momentum as he collected documents and drawings from all over the country.

“Of all the projects I’ve ever worked on, this was probably the most fascinating,” Sternal said.

The wall was created digitally, using graffiti-resistant marker film donated by 3M, and can be updated to include new University inventions and patents.

Sternal said the piece is meant to connect the University’s past with its future. The glass panels, he said, allow the reflection of passers-by to be, temporarily, a part of the art.

“As someone stands in front of that panel and is looking at their area of study Ö one can also envision their sense of place on this wall in the future because of what they do,” he said.

University Alumni Association President Margaret Sughrue Carlson said the wall stemmed from ideas for honoring the University’s 150th anniversary.

Carlson said she hopes students walking past the wall will aspire to contribute to the community through their academic achievements.