The University Record, February 27, 1996

Newly dubbed Pierpont Commons made North Campus 'truly a campus'

By Mary Jo Frank
University Relations


North Campus and its Commons have always held a special place in Wilbur K. Pierpont's memories, he told more than 150 friends and members of the University community who gathered to celebrate the renaming of the building Feb. 16.

Today the 89,000-square-foot Commons bears the name of Pierpont and his wife, Maxine. Pierpont, vice president emeritus and professor emeritus of accounting, was the University's chief financial officer from 1951 to 1977.

"The Pierpont Commons has a nice ring to it," noted President James J. Duderstadt, who praised Pierpont, former president Harlan Hatcher and their colleagues who oversaw the acquisition of land and construction on North Campus.

Pierpont recalled that 45 years ago he and Maxine walked on the undeveloped North Campus site to enjoy the beauty and so he could better understand the prints, drawings and models being prepared for consideration and approval.

"Now, in 1996, we are amazed and obviously well pleased to see all the various activities under way on this campus. It all brings back joyful memories of our University years, and we are doubly pleased to have this Commons building on this campus named for us."

The story of the development of North Campus describes one of the notable accomplishments of the University in the 50-year period since World War II, Pierpont said. On all of the University's campuses---in Ann Arbor, Flint and Dearborn---there are many examples of a plan, conceived, approved and implemented over a year, several years, or decades.

"While the North Campus is the largest of these plans in size, extent and significance, and is still being developed, all of them help to characterize a well-intentioned, well-administered and well-directed University," Pierpont said.

Although it is never an easy task to plan, locate, finance and construct any University building, Pierpont recalled that to build the Commons "took quite a bit longer than might have seemed necessary to me at the time."

The results were worth it. "When the Commons opened in 1964," Pierpont recalled, "it made this area truly a campus, as it provided a place where students, faculty and staff members studying and working in this area, and parents, alumni and visitors could meet their friends, have a cup of coffee, buy a book or magazine, eat lunch or dinner, hold a conference, or whatever."

Susan E. Ratcliffe, a junior in the School of Music and a member of the Commons Policy Board and the Arts and Programming Board, said the Commons today still "provides a perfect place for people to socialize, sit and study, talk, eat, look at artwork or architecture displays, play video games, go to 'non-credit' courses, or listen to musicians at night in Leonardo's. It is a place for faculty and students alike to have a voice and reach their peers from the North Campus community."

Regent Deane Baker, the only current Regent who was on the Board during Pierpont's tenure as vice president, described Pierpont as a leader who inspired confidence and loyalty. Few have served the University with greater dedication and skill than Pierpont, Baker said.