Naming the Freshman Residence Hall

BY ALEXA CHERRY
For the UAS Whalesong
I was not originally planning to attend the official naming ceremony of the John R. Pugh Residence Hall. But in a twist of fate, the class that I had thought was going to take significantly longer than planned (we were supposed to watch Gladiator) ended up going in a different direction, and taking only an hour and a half instead of the originally slated 2+ hours I had anticipated. So afterwards, I tromped up the  parking lot towards the new residence hall, resenting the amount of rain that was falling and having no idea of what to expect when I got inside.
Making my way up several flights of stairs, I reached the 3rd floor common room and promptly commenced high-level internal screaming. While I had come prepared to take notes and pay attention, I had not gotten any kind of memo about the dress code. “It’s business  casual, I think,” the registrar told me as she passed by where I stood rooted to the floor in slowly abating horror. Formal suits and moderately fancy dresses met my eye as far as it could see, leaving me to feel increasingly inadequate in my green corduroys and phases-of-the-moon sweatshirt. Still, things could have been worse. At least I hadn’t worn my Grumpy Cat “I hate Mondays” T-shirt. Trying to exude “business casual,” I edged further into the common room, keeping a sharp lookout for further upper-class social event hazards I might have to navigate.
Fortunately, I almost immediately found myself a comfort zone. A truly majestic spread of free food was directly next to the door, and everyone was helping themselves. Heaping piles of fruit and veggies, kabobs with peppers and olives and blobs of that weird squishy white cheese, mysterious meat rolls with equally mysterious (but delicious) contents, little sandwich wraps, cake, fudge, generic party punch – I decided then and there to attend more formal campus events. All in the name of the press, of course.
After about 10 minutes of standing around and amicably socializing in that vague, generic way that you can only experience to its full potential at formal business-y events, the event was called to order and everyone was abruptly forced to find a Good Spot from which to observe the proceedings. I somewhat inadvertently found myself in the back of the room, where I attempted to look casual by leaning against the trash cans. This proved to be weirdly entertaining; even elite businesspeople will go to great lengths to subtly and quietly throw away their garbage when someone is speaking on a microphone.
The speakers on the program made me abruptly aware that Many Important People were in attendance – which, I suppose, also explained the high standard of dress code. Chancellor Richard Caulfield gave the first speech, and also introduced every new speaker after himself. In order, they were Marie Olson of the Aak’w Kwaan Raven Eagle Shark People; Senator Dennis Egan of the Alaska State Legislature; Jyotsna Heckman, the Board of Regents Chair; Carla Beam, the president of the University of Alaska Foundation and the vice president of UA University Relations; President Jim Johnsen, the president of the entire University of Alaska system; Bella Powers, a CA at the residence hall and fellow student of ours; and last, but not least, John R. Pugh himself, the UAS Chancellor Emeritus. (“Emeritus” is a title addition to indicate that he was a chancellor, but isn’t anymore.)
I learned some interesting things from the speeches given, which I will share now with those of you who couldn’t or weren’t interested in attending. If you live in the residence hall, you’ll be pleased to know that Jyotsna Heckman called it the “crown jewel of campus.” President Jim Johnson added importance to the entire event by making it clear that people had flown in from all over the state just to attend the naming ceremony. Senator Egan gave an informative speech in which I learned that Pugh was responsible for getting the Noyes Pavilion and the Egan classroom wing built, as well as our student rec center – which, interestingly enough, was the first joint-use National Guard facility in America! And then John Pugh himself got to say a few words, which were mostly words of thanks to everyone who helped him achieve his goal of getting the residence hall built.
After the speeches, I milled around some more and grabbed some dessert before heading off into the night and the (pouring, never-ending, someone save us) rain. I would have called the event a success – I can’t speak to what the organizers of the event would say, since the fire alarm went off briefly as I was walking out the door. I was just pleased that it wasn’t like what I had originally thought a naming ceremony would be, which bore a striking similarity to an olden-timey ship christening. Though in retrospect, I’m not sure why I thought they would name an alcohol-free facility in a ceremony that involved breaking a bottle of alcohol somewhere on the premises. My personal misconceptions aside, however, it is done. The John R. Pugh Residence Hall can now officially be called the John R. Pugh Residence Hall. Though occasionally, I have been known to slip and refer to it as a dorm – but let’s just keep that between you and me.

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