Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Alter pavilion aims to put arboretum on the map

The grassy knoll behind the Mary Reed Building that is a favorite spot for outdoor classes will be getting a lovely canopy roof by summer’s end.

The roof will cover the Alter Arboretum Pavilion, a welcoming station for visitors and a device for identifying notable foliage, class gifts and important buildings on campus.

The pavilion is also to honor Chester Alter, chancellor at DU from 1953–66, in whose name the Chester M Alter Arboretum was designated in 1999 as one of a handful of university arboretums in the West. Alter spearheaded DU efforts to beautify the campus with trees, and he completed construction in 1965 of the Mary Reece Harper Humanities Garden, whose lily ponds enrich the west side of Mary Reed.

The pavilion will sit in the shadow of the “Chancellor’s Tree,” a huge English oak that Alter favored and which still towers over the walkway at the northeast corner of Cherrington Hall.

“[The pavilion] is meant to be a point where you can pause, take a moment to take in the campus and learn,” says University Architect Mark Rodgers.

To that end, the structure will include two maps designed for easy updating as the landscape changes. One map will point out significant trees and foliage in the arboretum; another will identify outdoor gifts that are visible from the site.

“The idea is to look out across campus to perceive its core, the entry point to the arboretum and tour routes that might be of interest [to visitors],” Rodgers says.

The pavilion will include outdoor benches, painted metal or stone-clad columns, and interior lighting powered by solar panels on the canopy roof. A bust of Alter is also planned, though not yet commissioned.

The project will be built by Hyder Construction, which is on campus completing additions to Cherrington Hall. The arboretum pavilion will be partially funded by an $18,000 gift from the DU Class of 2006.

Alter’s term as chancellor was renowned for extensive building projects, which included Johnson-McFarlane Hall, John Greene Hall, Knudson Hall, Centennial Halls and Towers and the Boettcher Center, among others. But his administration also oversaw the merger of DU’s law school with the Westminster College of Law, engineered the brick-by-brick transfer of Evans Chapel from downtown Denver to campus, and created the first endowed professorships in the University’s history, according to Allen Breck in From the Rockies to the World, The History of the University of Denver – 1864–1997.

Alter is also credited with doubling the number of faculty members, increasing salaries, raising academic standards and boosting the number of out of state students. He discontinued DU’s football program in 1961.

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