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Alumni walkway tradition continues

October 17, 2013

 

Jim King stands in front of construction on the alumni walkway and clock tower. – Submitted photo

Jim King stands in front of construction on the alumni walkway and clock tower. – Submitted photo

RANEY JOHNSON
Multimedia editor

 

An idea to give students a little something more started with two students and then Housing Director Jim King.

 

Nineteen years later he is able to see the recent completion of a two decade-long project. Construction on the walkway began in 1993 as part of the university centennial project said King, who has been involved with the project from the beginning.

 

“It started as an assembly space,” said King, vice president for student affairs. “The university didn’t have a place for students to get together in front of our Student Center.”

 

King said the idea to build the alumni walkway started in 1992 and was funded through a student fee. He said no patio existed where the red tables currently are because a street ran between the Student Center and Harper Hall.

 

“There were 8,500 cars every day that came down that street,” King said. “We came to realize that there were 900 students an hour crossing this intersection, so it was a mess.”

 

King said the traffic coming through was disruptive and dangerous, and the road was deteriorated.

 

“That’s when we excavated the site, constructed the tower and installed the alumni walkway,” he said. “It was about a $3.6 million project start to finish.”

 

King said the columns where the first alumni brick of Harry Howard is laid, the columns between the Student Center and Tolliver Hall and the clock tower were all modeled after the original columns near Keeny Hall, which served as one of the original entrances to Tech.

 

“The architects played off of that, because it was the centennial of Tech,” he said.

 

King said the making of the bricks was more difficult and costlier in 1993 than it is today.

 

“We did in the original creation of all these bricks some 72-74,000 engraved bricks,” King said. “Back then the process required a stencil be created and it would be sand etched and painted with a chemical similar to how tombstones are created.”

 

He also said all the bricks had to be laid by hand.

 

“One man laid everyone of them. He couldn’t read,” King said. “So the students and I had to lay them out and place them in the right order in order for the mason to put them in the right order.”

 

King said this was one of the reasons construction of the walkway was stalled.

 

“There are a number of reasons why the university fell behind,” he said. “The labor intensiveness of it kind of prohibited us from keeping it going.”

 

Emily Essex, coordinator of intramurals and sports clubs, along with others from the Lambright center were helpful hands in solving the labor-intensive problem.

 

“They laid out all 20,000 bricks ahead of the contractor,” King said.

 

Essex said it was a hot and strenuous job, so they would go out early in the morning to lay bricks.

 

“We had several of our guys come out and help,” Essex said.

 

Essex said 18-wheelers would bring in the pallet of bricks.

 

“We would have to take them from the pallets and lay them out in alphabetical order,” Essex said. “We laid about seven to eight years in two and a half weeks.”

 

She said sometimes a person’s brick would be missing, so they would just lay a blank one and order a brick for the former student.

 

“It was very rewarding,” Essex said. “We got to see the excitement of people checking out their bricks.”

 

King said there will be a ribbon cutting ceremony on Homecoming this Saturday.

 

“We’ve already commemorated the walkway, but it is just more of an invitation for people to come back, if you have graduated in the last decade,” King said. “The parade route goes right by there, so by the time the band comes around we should be cutting the ribbon.”

 

King said the bricks tell a story because students can see its growth from one graduate to multiple and how world events such as the world wars led to the decrease in the number of male graduates and the increase in the number of female graduates.

 

“It is a history lesson about the school,” King said. “It has a rich tradition.”

 

Email comments to rcj008@latech.edu.

 

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