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Weber Arch Dedicated

Ceremony honors former President Arnold Weber, dedicates arch

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June 8, 2011 | by Wendy Leopold

EVANSTON, Ill. --- In a new tradition, every incoming freshman class at the University is led by the Northwestern University Wildcat Marching Band and cheered on by fellow students in a march through the arch that welcomes visitors to Northwestern.

Yesterday, that arch and Arnold Weber -- the former Northwestern president who had the vision to make the portal to Northwestern’s Evanston campus a reality -- were celebrated in an outdoor ceremony at Sheridan Road and Chicago Avenue.  

Observed by a group of supporters, President Morton Schapiro unveiled the plaque that was later placed on the arch, reading the words of tribute to Arnold Weber, Northwestern’s 14th president.

Constructed in Weber’s last presidential year, the arch designed by Northwestern University landscape architect Ann Ziegelmaier now officially will be known as the Arnold Weber Arch.

“It is really appropriate that the physical pathway to our great University goes through the Weber Arch,” said President Schapiro. “Anyone who knows the history of Northwestern or any historian who writes how we got to be such a great teaching and research university knows that the path to excellence started with President Number 14, Arnie Weber.”

After almost a decade as Northwestern president, Weber, in 1993, felt the absence of a single gate through which students, faculty, alumni and visitors officially entered Northwestern was an architectural “gap” on the Evanston campus. The arch was completed in 1994.  

With his legendary wit, Weber charmed the audience as he accepted the honor. “Almost all University presidents harbor what’s called in the trade an ‘edifice complex,’” Weber joked. After replacing roof after roof of campus buildings, “I was humbled at the prospect that my administration might be remembered for installing the most cedar shingles since Northwestern was founded.”

Weber arrived at Northwestern during difficult financial times, and both President Schapiro and longtime Northwestern trustee Howard Trienens paid tribute to his management of the University’s fiscal affairs as well as his overall leadership. “But he doesn’t like to be known only as a bean counter,” said Trienens. Weber also greatly enhanced the faculty, the student experience and the beauty of the physical campus.  

Weber -- who was president of the University of Colorado before arriving at Northwestern -- told a story about a wealthy Colorado alumnus who, in a gesture of patriotism, financed the installation of three towering flagpoles outside that university’s administration building.

The pole designated to hold the university flag was dedicated in Weber’s name. Ever since his departure from Colorado, a familiar exhortation there arises when a new idea or proposal is reviewed: “Let’s run it up the Weber and see how it flaps.”  

“We trust students and visitors of the future will realize when they go through the Arch that they are on a path that was set by Arnold Weber,” said President Schapiro. Turning to the former president, Schapiro added: “I hope you and Edna [Weber’s wife] can step back and take pride in the transformative impact you have had on this University that you love so much.”