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UMW, COMMUNITY TO BENEFIT FROM CENTER
UMW dedicates new convocation center.

 William Anderson (center), who led UMW for 23 years, and Edward Hegmann (right), athletic director at the university, begin the tour of the $25 million arena that will be used for basketball games, concerts and other events.
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Date published: 8/26/2011

BY JEFF BRANSCOME

Earlier this week, former University of Mary Washington President William Anderson received a personal tour of the school's new 52,000-square-foot convocation center.

After the walk-through, Anderson recalled yesterday, someone asked him how he felt. After all, he is the namesake of the $25 million William M. Anderson Center.

"Now I know how a 4-year-old child feels on the 24th of December," was his reply.

Anderson, who retired in 2006 after 23 years as UMW's president, was one of several speakers during yesterday's dedication of the convocation center.

The multi-use facility by U.S. 1 on the Fredericksburg campus will seat more than 2,000 for volleyball and basketball games and more than 3,000 for special events and concerts.

William Crawley, a retired distinguished professor and former assistant to Anderson, said the center will host activities to bring UMW and the community together. That's why it's a "perfect tribute" to Anderson's legacy, he said.

"To him, the university was never an ivory tower of intellectual aloofness but instead an open door of community involvement," Crawley said at the dedication.

UMW President Rick Hurley said in an interview that the school would be open to hosting statewide or regional basketball and volleyball tournaments at the Anderson Center.

"We want to be real careful that we just don't open it up to any event," he said. "We'll be somewhat selective."

He also said the university would be interested in having traveling theater groups perform at the center.

The Fredericksburg Forum and Great Lives lecture series will continue to be held at the 1,300-seat Dodd Auditorium, Hurley said.

On Wednesday afternoon, UMW administrators addressed almost 2,800 freshmen, transfers and parents during the center's first major gathering. The students had moved into their dorms earlier in the day.

"Prior to the Anderson Center, we could not have had all parents and their first-year students in a campus facility to hear the same message and have the same experience," UMW Student Government Association President Ashley Nixon said. "And as you know, common experiences create community and encourage school spirit."

UMW's homecoming concert in October featuring the band Taking Back Sunday will be at the convocation center.

"Our students are very excited to have an arena of this caliber, which will enable UMW to attract top-notch bands and entertainment, even if we don't recognize the names of the groups," Hurley said to laughter of the crowd.

The center will help UMW recruit students, too, he said after the dedication.

"I think we're beginning every day to look and feel and act more like a university," Hurley said.

Jeff Branscome: 540/374-5402
Email: jbranscome@freelancestar.com