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Throwback Thursday: The Quad

We here in the UW Alumni Association are hopping aboard the “Throwback Thursday” bandwagon by sharing photos from the University of Washington’s storied history. We could think of no better way to launch this series on our blog than with photos of the Quad and those beautiful cherry blossoms.

The Yoshino cherry trees, which blossom for a week or two every March, symbolize the end of winter, the onset of spring, and countless photo opportunities in the Quad. But it wasn’t always that way.

Here, for example, was the Quad in 1942. Notice anything missing?

The Quad (circa 1942)

The Quad (circa 1942)

Until the early 1960s, the Quad was an open, treeless yard that bore little resemblance to the iconic gathering space of today. The brick paths were almost replaced with asphalt in 1963, but the plan was abandoned in the wake of pressure from student groups.

The Quad as we know it today first took shape in 1964, when UW President Charles Odegaard arranged for the 31 cherry trees to be transplanted from the arboretum to keep them from being bulldozed as part of the State Route 520 construction project. They found a home in the Quad because there was nowhere else to put them, but the trees quickly became a cherished part of campus lore.

Yoshino cherry trees live for 60-100 years; as they grow old and die, the trees are replaced with younger trees grown at a nursery near Mount Vernon.

Walk through the Quad this week or next — when the blossoms are near full bloom — and you’ll see a stunning display of pink clouds delicate petals. But don’t take our word for it; see for yourself in this photo, which was taken in 2013 near the location of the photo above:

The Quad in 2013 (Photo by Greg Flanders)

The Quad in 2013 (Photo by Greg Flanders)

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In the Spotlight: John Castle and Creating a Company

John Castle

John Castle

Every year, Creating a Company, as the course is dubbed, becomes less a class than a crash course in entrepreneurship. Groups of eager students team up, form a company, apply for a $1,000-$2,000 loan from the Foster School of Business, and spend the next few months hawking their product or service to the wider world.

Past companies have sold goods ranging from Husky apparel to glass jars of cake mix; other companies have launched art galleries and driven students to the mountain passes for a day on the slopes. (Read below for photos and memories of some of the course’s most memorable products.)

At the heart of it all is lecturer John Castle, who has taught the class for the past 12 years – and who will retire at year’s end.

In 2001, Castle had stepped down as CEO from Cantametrix, a music software company he helped found, when a neighbor and former UW professor approached him about inheriting the Creating a Company course. With more than 40 years of business acumen, Castle didn’t lack experience: Before joining the UW, he had served as CEO of Hamilton-Thorn, a medical electronics and diagnostics company; cofounded Seragen, a biotechnology company; and was a partner in Washington Biotechnology Funding, a seed venture capital fund specializing in medical technologies.

Since then, he’s drawn on that extensive experience as would-be CEOS have created and developed dozens of companies. Castle’s only rule in approving companies and dispersing loans is “Do no harm,” meaning that students can’t, say, promote underage drinking by selling shot glasses to fraternities and sororities on campus. (This actually happened.)

When the class ends, students return any profits to the Foster School and can buy their company for $1 to keep it going. Few companies have outlived their academic years, but Castle knows the experience will remain long after grades are posted. “Whether or not they learn how to do it well, they will learn whether or not they want to start their own business.” Castle said. “This is as realistic of an experience of entrepreneurship as we can make it.”

Read on for a look back at some of the most memorable products and services offered by students during Castle’s tenure.

Read more…

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The Burke’s Got Everything…

The Burke Museum and the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences maintain an amazing collection of fish. From spiny deep-sea anglerfish to a unique albino dogfish, the University of Washington Fish Collection comprises rows and rows of bottles and basins of fish preserved in alcohol in a fireproof, explosion-proof, earthquake-proof facility. Open to scholars and researchers, KING5 recently had a behind-the-scenes look:

Or you can take a look here:

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The Burke really DOES have everything!

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Public Art at the UW: Everything that Rises by Martin Puryear

In this series of periodic blog posts, we will examine the pieces of art that delight and befuddle visitors to campus and add to the unique beauty of the University.

The art that graces the UW campuses falls into three broad categories: Private gifts, like Red Square’s iconic Broken Obelisk; Commemorative works, like the busts and statues honoring figures prominent and obscure that are scattered all over campus; and works commissioned under the Art in Public Places program. Art in Public Places directs ½ of 1% of the budget of state buildings (including University buildings) to public art. These commissioned pieces are frequently the most visionary—and controversial—works seen on campus. Today’s subject falls in this last category.

"Everything that Rises" by Martin Puryear

"Everything that Rises" by Martin Puryear

I stumbled across Everything that Rises, a 23-foot bronze sculpture by Martin Puryear, standing sentinel in the plaza in front of the Physics/Astronomy building, while visiting campus with my 2-year-old daughter (she likes walking around the rim of Drumheller Fountain while Daddy holds her hand and envisions having to fish her out and explain to Mommy why the baby’s soaking wet). I found it visually arresting—smoothly curved among the sharp angles of the buildings, darkly reflective against the brighter brick, mysterious and evocative. It seems precariously balanced on its end, like a spinning top. The work’s radial symmetry draws the viewer to walk around it, making the background of buildings and mountains seem to rotate around the stationary pole of the sculpture.

My daughter liked the satisfying PONG it made when she slapped her hands against the hollow bronze.

Fans of the Southern gothic writer Flannery O’Connor will recognize the title of the work as the first part of the title of one of her short stories, “Everything That Rises Must Converge,” itself drawn from theologian Teilhard de Chardin’s writing about seeking unity with God. Puryear, however, warns against drawing to direct a connection between his work and its title. “I don’t want to be overly literal. Flannery O’Connor is one reference, but it’s obviously an incomplete phrase as it is. I like to give my work titles that are provocative and open up possible ways for people to look at the work and think about the work rather than close it down.”

Everything that Rises was not universally praised when it was unveiled. Described dismissively as a peanut or a bowling pin, or mistakenly identified as a depiction of a p-orbital (one of the paths electrons take around the nucleus of an atom), much of the controversy rose from the simplicity of its form. Former UW campus art administrator Kurt Kiefer, in a 2001 interview, opined, “A lot of people, when they see something simple, think that the artist is trying to pull the wool over their eyes. In fact, some artists choose to make things simple for a reason. They want to create something that makes people slow down. If an artwork makes people stop for a minute, then it’s done its job.”

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