MACON, Ga. – A dedication ceremony for Mercer University's new Cruz Plaza, which has transformed the center of campus with new brick walkways and gathering spaces and significant landscaping, will kick off a historic weekend on Friday, Aug. 30, at 6 p.m. One day later, Mercer will play its first modern collegiate football game.
Cruz Plaza is named for the Cruz family of Puerto Rico. Mercer Trustee Milton L. Cruz is a 1982 graduate of the College of Liberal Arts and chairman, president and CEO of Medholdings Inc. He, along with his wife, Aileen Rosso, as well as his father, Juan L. Cruz Rosario, and sister, Zoraida Cruz Torres – both Mercer graduates – made the lead gift for the construction project. The idea behind the project was to beautify the center of the Macon campus by removing an abandoned street, Edgewood Avenue, which ran through it.
"For future generations of Mercerians, Cruz Plaza will be the center of their college experience. While it certainly occupies the geographic center of today's campus, it also rests at the activity center of the campus, linking the University Center, which serves as the recreational center of campus, with the Connell Student Center, which serves as the social center of campus, and Tarver Library, which serves as the academic center of our campus," said Mercer President William D. Underwood. "It is a place where Mercerians will study, will socialize, and will play. There will be graduations and weddings and concerts in this place. Mercerians will return again and again to this special place, to relive cherished memories."
Construction began on the Plaza, which stretches north to south from the historic Quad to the University Center and east to west from Tarver Library to the Greek Village, in December of last year. The design, developed by the award-winning Atlanta landscape architecture firm HGOR, includes new seating and gathering areas, a prominent water feature and major landscaping improvements. Existing Macon campus landmarks Porter Patch and W.G. Lee Park have been incorporated into the design, as well. Macon's Chris R. Sheridan and Company served as general contractor.
Another existing feature of the Macon campus that is part of Cruz Plaza is the University's 2,200-pound bronze bear statue, which was originally installed in 2010. The statue has been moved down the hill that leads to the entrance of the University Center to more prominently figure into the design of the Plaza. Surrounding the statue is a platform that includes 578 inscribed bricks, or pavers, purchased by alumni for $100 each. These pavers, part of "The Brick Project" fundraiser initiated in 1999, were to be part of a brick-lined plaza, before a series of construction projects significantly reshaped the Macon campus. A second wave of pavers was purchased by donors in 2005.
The community is invited to attend the dedication of Cruz Plaza and then travel across campus to Mercer Village for "Friday Football Kickoff," sponsored by BB&T, which will feature appearances by football players and coaches, cheerleaders and the marching band, as well as food, games and fireworks. Gameday festivities begin when parking lots open at 9 a.m. on Saturday. The Bears will kick off against Reinhardt at approximately 6:08 p.m.
About Mercer University
Founded in 1833, Mercer University is a dynamic and comprehensive center of undergraduate, graduate and professional education. The University enrolls more than 8,300 students in 12 schools and colleges – liberal arts, law, pharmacy, medicine, business, engineering, education, theology, music, nursing, health professions, and continuing and professional studies – on campuses in Macon, Atlanta and Savannah – and four regional academic centers across the state. The Mercer Health Sciences Center, launched July 1, 2012, includes the University's medical, nursing, health sciences and pharmacy schools. Mercer is affiliated with four teaching hospitals – Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah, the Medical Center of Central Georgia in Macon, and The Medical Center and St. Francis Hospital in Columbus. The University also has educational partnerships with Warner Robins Air Logistics Center in Warner Robins and Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta. It operates an academic press and a performing arts center in Macon and an engineering research center in Warner Robins. Mercer is the only private university in Georgia to field an NCAA Division I athletic program. www.mercer.edu