University plans yearlong birthday celebration in 2000

Stacy Jo

While much of the public’s focus has been on the approach of the new millennium, some University officials have been looking just a bit further — Feb. 25, 2001, to be exact.
Exactly 150 years earlier, in 1851, a charter was signed that made the institution an official land grant university. That date in 2001 marks the sesquicentennial — the 150th anniversary — of the day the University was officially “born.”
Not wanting this landmark date to pass by without notice, last spring University President Mark Yudof appointed a committee to create guidelines and recommendations for the celebration to honor the institution itself and the people who have been involved with it throughout the University’s history.
“We do have to honor all the people who really sacrificed so we could have this University,” said Ellen Berscheid, a regents’ professor in psychology and co-chairwoman of the committee.
Aiming for a yearlong, statewide celebration, the committee is planning four central events, including a prelude event at the Minnesota State Fair; a kickoff event at the beginning of the 2000-01 academic year; a Feb. 25, 2001, commemoration of the charter signing; and a grand finale event at the close of the school year.
While committee members have tossed around several ideas — such as a re-enactment of the charter signing — they don’t yet know the makeup of most of these events; a Web site was recently set up to solicit suggestions from University community members at: www1.umn.edu/sesqui.
Members said they hope departments and colleges will be willing to incorporate the sesquicentennial theme into events such as the annual Homecoming celebration.
“All the major existing events that happen … will rally around this as well,” said Sue Eastman, sesquicentennial coordinator.
The year will be a sort of “open house” for the University, Berscheid said. Many of the buildings currently under construction will be completed by this time and tours of the facilities will likely be provided.
Berscheid said Yudof told the committee he wants the events to be fun; the president said he would like the committee to include fireworks in their plans, she added.
All this fun will not come for free, however.
“It’s not going to be cheap,” Berscheid admitted.
While loosely modeling their plans after recent sesquicentennial celebrations at the universities of Iowa and Wisconsin, committee members said they also hope to avoid making some of the same mistakes.
The University of Wisconsin exceeded their sesquicentennial budget, Berscheid said. The committee wants to stick to a planning budget similar to Wisconsin’s without similarly exceeding it.
“The best thing to do to not go over budget is to plan realistically in the first place,” said Richard Pfutzenreuter, associate vice president for the Office of Budget and Finance.
While the committee has not yet submitted its budget plan for his review, Pfutzenreuter said he doesn’t foresee the use of any state funds for the project. Unrestricted funds — such as those from the University of Minnesota Foundation and other private giving resources — will likely support the project, he said.