A Grand Reopening of the Imagination

From Minnesota Alumni Magazine Spring 2014

editor's note

When I attended the press conference at Coffman Memorial Union last November announcing plans for the grand reopening of the Northrop, I experienced something foreign in my 27 years of attending press conferences: I felt inspired.

I had toured the Northrop a couple of years ago, in the earliest days of the revitalization project, but as I listened to University Provost Karen Hanson (B.A. ’70) and others describe the transformation that was taking place, it became clear that this project was vastly bigger than making an old building functional again. It was a fundamental reimagining. The revitalization creates a state-of-the-art facility that is, in Hanson’s words, at multiple crossroads: a literal one at the center of campus; of the past, present, and future of the University; and of academics and the arts.

I hope the inspiration I felt then comes through in the pages of this issue of Minnesota. We’re pleased to give alumni a sneak preview of the reimagined Northrop, beginning with photographs from the early days of the project, when the theater was dismantled down to the dirt and daylight streamed in where an exterior wall used to be, and including whatever finishing touches we could squeeze in before press time. Patrick O’Leary (M.A. ’86), the University’s dogged photographer who began documenting the revitalization almost from the first strike of the shovel, made his hundreds of photographs available to us. Would that we could have published all of them instead of a fraction!

As you view the photos and read the articles, keep in mind that, were it not for alumni, the Northrop would never have arisen on the patch of earth it has occupied since 1929. The possibility of creating such a facility—one that eventually became known as The Carnegie of the Midwest because of the luminaries that graced its stage—was withering away for lack of funds until alumni dug deep in their pockets to bring the $1.32 million project to fruition. It’s a testament to the impact alumni have had and continue to have on shaping the life of this University.

When we first began working on this issue, I was surprised and delighted to discover how readily people talked about their memories of the Northrop. Whether alumni or not, people have abundant and vivid recollections of the place. Such is the power of the Northrop in the imagination and experience of students, alumni, and the wider community.

But don’t take my word for it. Make a plan to come to campus and experience the new Northrop for yourself. In the meantime, enjoy this issue of Minnesota.

Cynthia Scott (M.A. ’89) is the editor of Minnesota. She can be reached at scott325@umn.edu.

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