Hill Auditorium - A season of Celebration - Reopening Ceremony
January 8, 2004
Remarks by President Mary Sue Coleman
Today is the first time I have been in Hill Auditorium, and I am just overwhelmed by the beauty of this hall. It is not just one of the treasures of our University, but a treasure of our country, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. I am so glad you could join us today—we wanted to throw open our doors early so you could see the magnificent new venue for the 2004 season of concerts.
I have enjoyed reading about the restoration of Hill over the past few days, and was delighted to see that today's New York Times has an article about and picture of this re-opening, titled "Michigan's Gem of an Auditorium Glitters Again"!.
Over the weekend, I saw an article in the Ann Arbor News, which told us that one of the acoustical goals of this great hall was to allow the president of the University to stand in the center of the stage and be heard!
I think this was an admirable goal, but now that I have conducted an orchestra, I understand that it is even more important that performers have outstanding acoustics—and I know that most of you are here today to hear from the musicians, not from the speakers!
This restoration process took over twenty months and was planned over many years—five presidents of the University have committed to this project, including President James Duderstadt, who is here today, so I am especially privileged to be the president to welcome you back into this great hall.
These colors are so beautiful—and I was amazed to learn this week that the architect, Albert Kahn, was color-blind.
So we all are enjoying this hall in a way he never could have.
Let me thank some of the people here who have made this day possible. We have several members of the Board of Regents present, who authorized this restoration almost five years ago: Regents David Brandon and Rebecca McGowen.
We want to thank all the donors who provided the gifts that have allowed us to restore this hall to its former beauty, and especially thank the Kennedy family and the Elizabeth Earhart Kennedy Fund for its early and very generous gift that moved this project forward.
I especially want to thank Judith Dow Rumelhart for serving as chair of the Hill Auditorium campaign and for hosting us today. I have heard that she is quite a talented singer, herself!
And I want to thank Hank Baier, who has been the guiding force who supervised all aspects of this restoration with wonderful attention to detail, along with all the architects, designers, construction specialists, and craftspeople who have devoted eighteen months to this building.
I know this represents more than a job, and more than the hours they have spent here. This hall is the ultimate expression of the term, "labor of love."
Everywhere I look, I see the pride they have invested in all the large and miniature aspects that make this such a remarkable building. The high level of craftsmanship is extraordinary, and can be found from the stunning skylight to the meticulous details that surround us.
As I have been waiting for this day to arrive, I have come to realize that Hill Auditorium is more than great architecture—it is an experience. It is entire lifetimes of experience, multiplied by tens of thousands of students and audience members.
Hill Auditorium is an expression of the vision that established the University of Michigan as a leading university in this country.
It is very appropriate that we are re-opening the hall this year, because exactly one hundred years ago, in Winter of 1904, Regent Arthur Hill made out his will, leaving a bequest to create this wonderful hall. He did not tell anyone, not even the president of the University, about his bequest, so it did not become known until after his death eight years later.
It is fascinating to read the speeches that were given by the university officials and the Governor when this building was dedicated in 1915. They all knew this was more than a building, and they were talking about all of you when they stood on this stage and looked into the future.
Regent Clements told the audience that the University should, quote, "Let our ideal be for the highest standard, a National University."
And Governor Woodbridge Ferris told the world, "Any attempt to estimate the resources of Michigan without considering our great University would result in failure. This Auditorium is to be the means of furnishing thousands of students with the best thoughts of the best brains in the world. The State of Michigan cannot be too enthusiastic in thanking Arthur Hill, who has made his name dear to thousands and tens of thousands who are not even yet born."
We heard Judy tell us about her experience as a young musician learning from great performances.
This stage has provided our campus and community with the experience of hearing from world leaders, listening to great authors, and receiving academic honors.
Each of you has brought a treasure of memories to this event, and the auditorium is full of the reverberation of your experiences here.
One person who traveled here today, Mary Sexton, is 85 years old, and she has brought a 95-year-old friend, who is literally "older than Hill!" Mrs. Sexton came to her first concert in 1936, when she heard Marian Anderson, and she brings almost sixty years of memories to this re-opening.
Collectively, you all have brought thousands of years of memories to this celebration, just as Governor Ferris predicted.
I will be able to enjoy academic ceremonies and musical performances later this year, but today marks the first of my own treasured memories of Hill Auditorium.
I am so pleased that Ken Fischer and the University Musical Society have selected such outstanding performers to open the UMS anniversary season in Hill next week. I am looking forward to those concerts, and to the great event UMS is planning with the School of Music on April 8—William Bolcom's massive composition, "Songs of Innocence and Experience."
Professor Bolcom's "Experience" will provide another magical experience for hundreds of our music students, for UMS, and for our audience.
Now, I want us to formally open the hall with a ribbon-cutting. I will be joined by Judith Dow Rumelhart, Regent Rebecca McGowen, Dean Karen Wolff, Ken Fischer, Michael Quinn, Eric Hill, Music students Louis Reed and Matt Ernst, and a representative from the Kennedy Family.
Before we cut the ribbon, I will read a greeting from Governor Granholm.
Dear President Coleman:
I am sorry that I am not able to be with you in person today to celebrate the grand re-opening of Hill Auditorium. This beautiful building has been a gathering place in Ann Arbor for nearly a century, welcoming performers and lecturers from around the world to share their music, their writing, and their ideas with university students and all Michigan citizens since 1913. The historical significance of this structure goes well beyond the boundaries of this great university. Hill Auditorium is counted as one of Michigan's cultural jewels.
I am sure Michigan graduates all over the world have fond memories of concerts and lectures they attended while students at the university, or maybe they walked across this grand stage to receive their degree. The renovation has preserved the original design of architect Albert Kahn, including the amazing acoustics, and preserved the history of all that have passed through these doors.
Now, new memories will be created, and old memories will be renewed. Congratulations to the University of Michigan, to the Ann Arbor community, and to all who have worked so hard to complete this project. This is a great day for culture and the arts in Michigan. When Governor Woodbridge Ferris attended the original dedication of Hill Auditorium in 1915 he said, "This auditorium is to be the means of furnishing thousands of students with the best thoughts of the best brains in the world ." Hill has certainly lived up to his expectations and, now, future generations of university students and Michigan citizens will walk through these doors and share the experience.
Jennifer M. Granholm
By cutting this ribbon, I want to welcome all of you and the citizens of our state back into Hill Auditorium!