By Patricia Brennan
The University of Dallas will receive a beautification award from the city of Irving.
“We were surprised by the award,” said Robert Galecke, executive vice president of UD. “We weren’t made aware of it. We didn’t submit the university for nomination.”
The nomination was made by Gene Moulden, the planning manager for the city of Irving. The award was chosen by Irving’s parks and recreation advisory board. The board consists of volunteers and serves to advise the City Council on matters relating to the parks and recreation programs.
“The award is for corporations and volunteers that have done good things for the city,” Moulden said. “The university has done a great deal of improvement towards beautifying their campus. It was a worthwhile investment and I thought it deserved recognition.”
Irving’s parks and recreation department has several different categories for awards and the advisory board decided that the university was most deserving of the beautification award, specifically for the Vilfordi Plaza and the new entrance gateways. Moulden submitted the nomination in October and it was finalized in November. The official award ceremony will take place on Monday, Dec. 6.
The university’s beautification project began in 2013, with the most notable addition being Vilfordi Plaza. Located on the corner of State Highway 114 and Tom Braniff Drive, the plaza gives campus more visibility to drivers and offers students better accessibility to the DART station.
The plaza serves as a new entrance to the university, featuring rich landscaping, a footbridge across Madonna Pond and three flags: an American flag, a Texan flag and an Italian flag representing the Due Santi campus.
Though the beautification process began last year, major changes have been taking place for the past 15 years. The construction of Highway 114 and the reconstruction of Northgate Drive redefined the surrounding area. Once the construction of 114 was complete, a DART stop was created, providing students without a car a reliable means of travel around the Dallas area.
The university also improved the entrances, creating a collection of gateways which map out a visual perimeter of the campus. Other changes in recent years include the construction of the West Hall in 2010 and the renovations of the Haggar University Center in the spring of 2012.
The school also worked with the city of Irving to ensure that the campus’ appearance would fit in well with its location.
“We wanted to create better signage. The city of Irving is working on a stone corridor monument. We worked with them and they agreed to use similar stone colors,” associate director for administration Patrick Daly said.
Though the Princeton Review recently named UD one of the “Least Beautiful Campuses,” the university continues to beautify the campus in various ways. The proposed dedication of the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe is intended to take place in May, before commencement. Students will soon be able to witness the groundbreaking for the Satish and Yasmin Gupta College of Business building, which is projected to be finished by 2016. There will also be continued renovations on the east side of campus.
“We wanted to raise better awareness and create a better first impression,” Galecke said. “We’ve always said that once you’re inside the campus it’s pristine, but we want people driving on the side of the road to say, ‘Oh that’s the University of Dallas.’”
Though the process has been long, the university has welcomed the changes.
“It really shows how much you care about the community,” Moulden said.
According to Daly there has also been discussion about the athletic side of campus.
“We’ve talked, but there’s nothing planned. For now there’s just conversations.”
The university will also soon see better “vehicular and pedestrian signage,” making the university easier to navigate for visitors and those unfamiliar with the campus.
After the completion of the College of Business building, the next projects in the works are a new administration building and a new auditorium, as the current ones are no longer practical. Carpenter Hall has stood on campus since the university opened in 1956 and has begun sinking into the ground. Lynch Auditorium currently holds only 200-300 seats; the current freshman class has 385 students.
Administrators hope that others will begin to recognize UD’s unique beauty as the campus continues to develop.