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UW Cuts Ribbon on Welcoming Center

October 24, 2014
two men looking up at bucking horse statue
Sculptor Chris Navarro, left, and Gov. Matt Mead admire Navarro’s statue “Wyoming Cowboy,” which was unveiled Friday during a ceremony to open the Marian H. Rochelle Gateway Center at the University of Wyoming. (UW Photo)

The University of Wyoming cut the ribbon today (Friday) on the Marian H. Rochelle Gateway Center -- a dramatic welcoming center with state-of-the-art technological infrastructure -- that is funded entirely through private support.

“The Marian H. Rochelle Gateway Center provides a gracious entrance to the University of Wyoming. It is a tribute to the university and to Wyoming. It reflects our Western heritage and our commitment to progress,” Gov. Matt Mead says. “I thank the generous donors who made this center possible, as well as the architects and design and construction firms for creating another landmark building for Wyoming.”

Located on the corner of 22nd Street and Grand Avenue near War Memorial Stadium, the 67,000-plus-square-foot Marian H. Rochelle Gateway Center is a multi-use “front door” for connection, collaboration, and public and social events.

“The University of Wyoming is a dynamic institution with a distinguished history and a bright future, and we now have a ‘front door’ that reflects that,” says UW President Dick McGinity. “I join the entire university community in thanking the philanthropists who made this vision a reality and gave UW a place to welcome all who love the state’s university.”

The facility is funded entirely by private support, making this the largest fundraising facility project in UW history. The total cost of the facility is $35 million.

“On behalf of the entire UW Foundation Board of Directors, let me say ‘thank you’ to an extraordinary group of philanthropists for their generous support and commitment to the one-of-a-kind Rochelle Gateway Center,” says UW Foundation Board Chair Scott Neu. “Without their vision, this project would not have been possible. It’s not only an architecturally striking physical gateway to campus -- it’s also a symbolic gateway representing the University of Wyoming’s remarkable future.”

“The Marian H. Rochelle Gateway Center is a game-changer for UW,” says UW Foundation President Ben Blalock. “It is the result of vision, philanthropy and a remarkable construction team. In every aspect, the Rochelle Gateway is a historic achievement. I am humbled by the generous philanthropy of our donors, the creative work of our design team, and the passion exhibited by every construction worker to build Wyoming’s university a front door that is second to none.”

The center’s namesake, philanthropist Marian H. Rochelle, gave more than $12 million in support of the facility. Mick and Susie McMurry gave $6 million through the McMurry Foundation to support the Grand Atrium and the Legacy Hall. Greg and Loren Hill gave $1.25 million to create the north plaza, Roy and Fay Whitney gave $1 million to create the south plaza, and Carol and Ramon Tomé gave $1 million for the Student Admissions Center. The list goes on. The center has inspired many more wonderful gifts from UW’s dedicated supporters.

The facility is home to the UW Alumni Association, Admissions, Career Services and the UW Foundation, and contains office and collaborative space for these units as they support and promote the university.

Surrounded by a dramatic three-story wall of windows, the McMurry Family Grand Atrium proudly welcomes visitors, functioning as the central hub. With its wide-open welcoming aesthetics and prominent university displays and exhibits, it serves as a gathering place and event space for students, alumni, prospective employers, industry leaders and all of UW’s other constituencies.

The McMurry Family UW Legacy Hall will be the most visited space in the new building, creating an interactive experience that honors the impact of UW on Wyoming, the renowned alumni and friends who have man using interactive display as two women look onsupported Wyoming’s university, and the noteworthy traditions of the institution. It tells the story of UW -- from the founding in 1886 through its vibrant present and on into the institution’s bright future -- through museum-quality space and dynamic and flexible visuals, including video and digital displays. Within these spaces, the impact of Wyoming’s energy industry in advancing Wyoming and UW is celebrated in a permanent exhibition.

The static and digital exhibits are a collaboration of the UW Foundation and the American Heritage Center. These exhibits will continue to be changed and updated, and the American Heritage Center will continue to be actively involved in historical content for the Legacy Hall and energy display.

The north and south entrances each will feature iconic statues. The south statue by Chris Navarro, titled “Wyoming Cowboy,” is a bronze representation of Steamboat, Wyoming’s iconic bucking horse, and a rider rising almost 20 feet on its base. This sculpture was made possible by a $500,000 donation from Bruce and Kathy Bummer. The north statue by D. Michael Thomas, titled “Breakin’ Through,” features a horse and rider breaking through a wall of Wyoming sandstone, and the rider will be a woman. This work of art was made possible by a $500,000 donation from April Brimmer Kunz and Marian H. Rochelle. The latter statue will be installed in 2015.

The depth and breadth of the center’s purpose are like no other in the nation. It has a much wider mandate and it serves a much broader audience than comparable facilities at other institutions of higher learning.

It is home for students past, present and future. It is a place for prospective students and families to enter the university, for gatherings of current students, for alumni to arrive and celebrate the history and traditions of their alma mater, for friends to participate in the university’s programs, and for corporations and organizations to interview and recruit UW students. It also serves Wyoming’s donors, athletic fans, supporters, friends and the general public.

The center can meet the needs of almost any size or type of event. The spaces within the building are technologically savvy, flexible and aesthetically one of a kind, and there are two plazas ideal for outside events.

These spaces can be used for intimate lunches or for a banquet of 600 in the ballroom and spilling out onto the outdoor plazas. They can be used for tailgating, weddings, speeches, reunions, conferences or just a meeting place for friends traveling into town. There is free Wi-Fi and a 30-screen digital wall showing video content of Wyoming and its university.

Plans for the Gateway Center project began in 2008 and featured prominently in the university’s long-range development plan.

The UW Foundation Board of Directors assembled a planning team and charged it with the direction and leadership of this project. Among its members were constituents from across campus and the UW Foundation Board, including Scott Neu, board chair; April Brimmer Kunz, vice chair; emeritus chairs Clayton Hartman, Roy Cline, Greg Dyekman and Frank Mendicino; and Mari Ann Martin, former foundation board member.

Construction began in April 2013 and was completed in October 2014.

The center was designed by Cheyenne-based Pappas & Pappas Architects P.C., and DLR Group, an integrated design firm with offices across the United States. The national branding firm Advent LLC designed the exhibit and museum spaces. The construction manager at risk was Wyoming- and Colorado-based Haselden Construction.

The ribbon cutting took place in the Marian H. Rochelle Gateway Center. Speakers included Mead, former U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson, Blalock, Neu, Brimmer Kunz, and Mick McMurry.

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