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University Avenue restored to former glory, thanks to alumni

[photo of highland dancers at opening]Queen's Gazette
Monday October 14, 2008

By KAY LANGMUIR

Open a mind and you open a heart. Well over 60 years after two former students left the campus, their unflagging devotion to Queen’s has found expression in the elegant new walkways and landscaping along University Avenue.

Although Patrick McNally, Sci’39, of Burlington, Ont., and Jack McGibbon, Com’43 of Qualicum Beach, B.C., both initially wanted to remain anonymous, they were later coaxed into the limelight by many at Queen’s who were keen to publicly honour their generosity in equally sharing the cost of a facelift for a major section of the university’s main north south thoroughfare.

“They’re such loyal Queen’s alumni and they’re very grateful for the education they received here,” said Faye Ransom of the Planned Giving Office. “Their generosity is just magnificent.”

Both of them are well into their 80s, and were not able to make the trip to Kingston to attend the Oct. 4 dedication ceremony, during which Principal Tom Williams paid tribute to the two donors and their love of Queen’s.

Principal Williams also thanked both university and city staff who worked closely over many months, as the section of University Avenue from Union to Stuart Street was torn up. The narrow grass median and its hard-luck crabapple trees, ailing under punishing foot traffic, were removed and the street narrowed.

The sidewalks, and the side lawns and forecourts of the adjacent buildings were widened and enhanced with pedestrian and street lighting. New plantings were added and the weakened crabapple trees, a gift originally from Robert Dunsmore, (BSc Eng 1915), were replanted in a grove between Ontario and Grant halls.

As the Queen’s Bands played on a beautiful fall afternoon, a crowd, including Mayor Harvey Rosen and MP Peter Milliken, gathered on the avenue south of Kingston Hall, near two stone pillars draped with ribbons. The pillars mark the entrance of the new Professors’ Walk, which runs eastward from University Avenue, along the south side of Kingston Hall.

Each of the donors named a new walkway in the project. McGibbon’s Way runs between Douglas Library and Ontario Hall and is named for Mr. McGibbon and his late wife, Elizabeth, who was also a Queen’s grad. Mr. Mc- Nally chose to name the other in honour of professors at Queen’s.

“I enjoyed my time at Queen’s tremendously,” Mr. McNally said from his home recently. He remembers with particular fondness his time serving as stage manager for campus drama groups, and especially one talented student actor, Lorne Greene."

And in those days, we had a dance every Friday or Saturday night at Grant Hall.” He called his Queen’s years of learning, dancing and drama “a helluva mix.”

Ribbon cutting at the decidation of a revitalized University AvenueMr. McNally has been back to Queen’s many times over the years, as some of his children graduated from Queen’s. And he saw the changes, as the elegant canopy of elms that flanked the avenue succumbed to Dutch Elm disease.

“Once the old elm trees died, the place looked pretty barren… so I spoke to (then Principal) Bill Leggett and told him it needed sprucing up.”

Sensing the potential for action, Principal Leggett spoke to another alumnus looking for a way to support the university, John McGibbon. He too remembered the boulevard’s former leafy glory.

“It used to have overarching elms from Princess all the way down University Avenue,” said Mr. McGibbon.

The two men, who initially didn’t know each other, but have since met, agreed to foot the cost of the project, and to arrange estate gifts that will provide ongoing maintenance and stewardship of the avenue.

Professor Emeritus John Meisel cut the ribbon on Professors’ Walk.

“This gift embodies the fundamental respect for the academic core of the university, and the fundamental respect for excellence,” said Dr. Meisel.

Their gift also is testimony to how much students love their physical surroundings at the university, he said.

“The campus reflects continuity,” he said.

Dr. Meisel also said he hoped that professors would take time away from their computers and email, to stroll down the path to clear their heads and improve their health.

The revitalization project began in the spring of 2007. Final touches to the landscaping are to be completed this fall.

Kingston, Ontario, Canada. K7L 3N6. 613.533.2000

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