The Campaign to Rename the John Roach Center

EDIT: Much as I’ve enjoyed writing this post (the quotes especially!), reading the reaction to it (discussion is good!), and digging deeper into the subject (who started this campaign?), it turns out that the subject falls within the parameters of my employer’s communications policy.  

Employers are famously persnickety about people (especially employees) talking about them with any level of excitement — even if the excitement is generally positive — because P.R. in the age of the internet is very difficult (and I get that)… so, regrettably, I’ve decided to take the post down before I get an unpleasant phone call.  I’m just going to leave this wholly inoffensive passage in place:

“‘John Roach Center’ evidently is another name for my own building, Albertus Magnus Hall. Before we moved in, Magnus was the Science Building. They did real science then, the kind of science from which we would come out of the lab with our faces blasted like Wile E. Coyote, or with identical rashes on our hands from using the same rubber gloves. Those were the days. We came to appreciate the price of discovery, as well as the relative physical safety of working in the humanities.

“~Dr. S. J. Heaney (from The Pulp, Letter to the Editor, Vol 1 Issue 2)

(Photo: Dr. Fred Slocum, U of M Mankato)

Following a long tradition of giving every local archbishop a named building on campus, St. Thomas decided to rename the renovated Albertus Magnus Hall in 2000. It was now designated the John R. Roach Center for the Liberal Arts (JRC for short).

There was a lovely symmetry in the old name: when you walked through the Arches [the University’s iconic feature, bridging Aquinas Hall and JRC], you had Aquinas, our great patron, scholastic, and philosopher, on your left, and Albertus Magnus, who was not only Aquinas’s teacher and a scholastic himself, but also a great scientist for his age, on your right.  The liberal arts and the hard sciences, faith and reason, were united permanently, separate but locked in dialogue, in that timeless symbol of our campus, the Arches. Now you have Aquinas on the left and Archbishop John Roach on your right… the asymmetry is irritating, and the symbolism of the Arches is totally lost.

The Arches are still an important fixture on campus, of course, like the Marshall Field’s clock in Chicago, but it’s out of habit now, whereas when they were built they represented everything important about the school in a few feet of concrete — a marvelous example of what architecture can do when given half a chance to do it.

I’m also leaving the picture and caption in place, because they are awesome.

Sorry to all my readers who are coming to this post looking for the original story.  It was a pretty good one!  There were jokes!  And history lessons!  And free cookies at the end!  Too bad you weren’t a subscriber to the blog — subscribers get to see everything posted here, right away, without any of this sort of editing!  Subscriptions are available in the right-hand sidebar!  I close with the following string of unnecessary exclamation points: !!!!!!!!!!

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