FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (7/96)
SHREVEPORT, LA -- In the 171-year history of Centenary College of Louisiana, few student projects have captured the heart and imagination of the campus community like the Patrick Peavy Jr. Memorial Climbing Tower.
A project of Dr. Barrie Richardson's Human Relations/Leadership Class, the 52-foot structure is the tallest in the region and the only four-sided climbing wall in the United States. Two of the walls angle in, then reach straight up into the treetops to a covered platform. A 350-pound door centers a team-building wall and a memorial wall, both 12 feet in height. Azaleas and dogwoods, ferns and flowers will provide a place of serenity.
But more than its architectural elegance and sheer physical magnitude, the climbing wall represents the efforts of nine Centenary College students who saw "the power of purpose."
"At the beginning of the semester, I thought this would never happen," said Christan Weidner '96, a student in the class. "The vision for the climbing wall was great, but I did not know if we could get the money, the permission from the school, or if we had the leadership abilities to make it work. I was wrong! I still cannot believe that the wall was finished just this past Saturday. Wow! It is amazing that a group of nine students could make this happen!
"I have learned more through this Human Relations class than from any other course I have taken at Centenary College. I learned how a team works together to get a project completed in spite of all the obstacles. As Dr. Richardson said on the day the wall was being completed, "Never underestimate the power of purpose."
Patrick Peavy was the son of Linda Crow, a graduate of Centenary's MBA program, and Pat Peavy, a Shreveport physician. Patrick, an honor student at the University of North Carolina, died tragically last summer after an allergic reaction. Patrick was a natural leader, setting goals which he pursued with commitment and passionate dedication. A climber, he literally and figuratively reached outside of his comfort zone to reach even higher peaks.
So that this promising young man and the vigorous life he led would not be forgotten, Dr. Richardson and the members of his class commited to memorialize Patrick's life in the manner which exemplified the way he lived it. The climbing wall would pay tribute to Patrick's life and serve as a place for team-building and leadership development of students for many years to come.
"Whether you knew Patrick or not, you identified with him and what he stood for," said David Evans. "While his mother said that he would probably be embarrassed by all the fuss, we all identified with the fact that we would hope that our lives held such meaning to others."
The class got to work: David Evans, Mark Badger, Christan Weidner, Joby Ogwyn, Wendy Hill, Josh Milliron, Keith Wilson, Davor Ivancic, and Ryan Lawrence.
They agreed on rules for their class sessions:
1. Attend all meetings.
2. Be prepared.
3. Do not put down different views.
4. Encourage constructive criticism.
5. Welcome new ideas.
6. Encourage others.
7. Make a weekly agenda for task/short-term goals.
One of the new ideas welcomed by the group was Wendy's suggestion to make one of the walls a memorial wall for anyone who has lost a loved one. "I wanted this wall to have personal significance in everyone's life," Wendy said. Her classmates agreed, and the special space was incorporated into the plans. Added David, "I can think of no better tribute to someone's life than to remember them on a monument that stands for the vitality and excitement that life is supposed to be about."
They divided into teams -- construction and fund-raising. No longer a theoretical project; this is the real thing. After meeting with college administrators, the students got busy. Plan the work and work the plan. They had less than half the semester to complete the project.
Local climbing instructors Jim Simmons and Billy Fontaine put the students in touch with Brian Capron of Charlotte, N.C., one of the foremost climbing wall builders in the country. The class met with Kathleen Smith, risk management coordinator at Centenary, to talk about insurance. Shreveport engineer Tristan Larsen put the students' design on paper. They interviewed architects and landscape designers. They got advice and help from Charlotte Turnley, administrative assistant. They shared their vision with Trustees Roy Hurley, George Nelson and Sam Peters. David, Mark, and Christan built a scale model.
The fundraisers met with Gene Gregory, vice president for development, and Janie Flournoy '72, director of special gifts. They planned a party where they could tell their story to donors. They designed invitations, pledge cards and thank-you notes. They contacted the media and wrote news releases.
"We came to many road blocks as we went through the process," said Joby Ogwyn, a senior and world-class climber himself. "But instead of stopping, we continued to go up and over them, just like the wall we were trying to build. There were people who believed we could do it. There were people who believed we couldn't. But WE believed we could do it. And as one of our biggest supporters, Sam Peters '39, would tell us, 'You have to make it happen.' This project took great team work. Everyone had to work together to get things done."
Over 150 people attended the fundraiser, which was a great success. For Mark Badger, a graduating senior, "This was an awesome experience as this was very real life." By the end of the evening, over $12,000 had been raised, and by the end of the semester, the class had raised $27,000.
Centenary MBAs provided the initial gifts. Other contributions came from The Centenary Muses; The Women's Endowment Quorum; hundreds of friends and family members, and others in the community who heard about the project and were attracted by its significance.
The fundraising seemed easy compared to getting insurance. After weeks of paperwork, telephone calls and meetings, the insurance company gave its permission to start construction.
The students got into high gear, and the construction process miraculously fell into place. Brian Baker, Centenary horticulturist, prepared the site. SWEPCO -- Southwestern Electric Power Co. -- came immediately to set the 65-foot poles and guywires which they were donating. Brian Capron was also able to start work immediately, only because a job in Florida had been canceled. The weather in Shreveport was rainy for a week, but for the week of construction, it was sunny and breezy.
"Just seeing the poles in the ground was a...momentous occasion," said Mark Badger. "It meant that we were actually going to get this thing started -- that finally what we had been working on for over two and a half months was taking physical shape."
Other materials and equipment were delivered: lumber from Custom Bilt at half price; generators, saws, hammers and nails, and the tallest ladders Brian Baker could find.
Mark and David took on the job of construction liaisons and spent hours at the site. "The work was not easy, but all the same, I could not really get enough of it," Mark said. "When the final (hand) holds were put into place and the final edges sawed off to make it look perfect, we were able to look up at what we had done. I know what the progression was each day, but it seemed like a majestic structure just appeared on our campus overnight...This was an unbelievable accomplishment, and we did it. I will be able to apply numerous things that I learned from this to situations that I know I will face later on in life, and with this knowledge, I know that I will again succeed."
His classmates concurred.
Christan: "This project has made me realize what is really important in my life, education and career. I know this experience has taught me much more than I could ever learn from a book. I only hope that those involved know that they touched so many lives -- especially mine."
Wendy: "This class has taught me many lessons about the real world. Leadership is a must in soceity today. With leadership projects, such as the climbing wall, today's youth can develop the leadership skills necessary for tomorrow."
Keith: "When I think of leadership, I think of the Human Relations class at Centenary College, Spring of 1996. Our leader, Dr. Richardson, turned a group of nine adults into a group of team leaders that had heart, desire, determination...He has paved the way for nine successful people to be great leaders..."
Davor: "Were we all not captured by this great idea? All of us were driven by this great force."
Ryan: "This semester has been the most influencing semester of my college life...I have learned so much as to what it takes to do a business project...I have learned how to deal with people in the business world. I believe this project is one that I will take with me in life no matter where I go."
Josh: "I was able to see in action how a person with a vision can make something happen. Dr. Richardson had the vision of building a climbing wall. As he shared it with the class and with others, the vision spread. People have wanted to help from the very beginning. May the Wall inspire future students to climb higher in life and succeed in their goals as leaders."
David: "As climbing forces one to reach beyond comfort zones...this project made us reach a little bit further, to trust in ourselves a little bit more than we are accustomed, and to appreciate the value of life with a little more certainty."
Joby: "I learned that no project is too big or too grand. When you put your mind to doing something, you can do it."
- 30 -