As Fairfield University’s 75th anniversary celebrations draw to a close, we look once more to the pages of The Manor yearbooks for photographs to chronicle the changes, events, and enduring traditions that define the Fairfield experience. This third and final installment takes us through the 1990s to the turn of the century and into the new millennium.

As Fairfield University’s 75th anniversary celebrations draw to a close, we look once more to the pages of The Manor yearbooks for photographs to chronicle the changes, events, and enduring traditions that define the Fairfield experience. This third and final installment takes us through the 1990s to the turn of the century and into the new millennium.

Nostalgia for the Nineties

It’s easy to be nostalgic about the 1990s — a lot of good things were happening. The U.S. economy was strong and growing. Violent crime rates were dropping dramatically. With the 1991 launch of a single site on the World Wide Web, the digital age was up and running.  From Seinfeld and The Sopranos to hip hop and Nirvana, American culture was vibrant and varied.

 

“The Quick Center”

A lot of good things were happening at Fairfield University during the 90s too, beginning with the opening of the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts. The first season of the $7.5 million facility was lauded as a cultural high point in a New York Times end-of-year review published on December 30, 1990.  In the article, University spokesman Murray Farber described the new Quick Center as “a valuable asset, both for the community and for the education of our students — tomorrow’s connoisseurs of the arts.”
Boasting a state-of-the-art 750-seat theatre with perfect acoustics, an intimate 120-seat experimental “black box” theatre, and a 2,000-square-foot art gallery, the Quick Center remains a cultural hub not just for Fairfield’s campus, but for all of Fairfield County. More than 40,000 “intellectually hungry and perpetually curious” audience members of all ages and backgrounds flock to an eclectic mix of performances, films, lectures and art exhibits each year.

 

Egan Chapel

The years 1990 and 1991 heralded two milestone events in Jesuit history: the 450th anniversary of the founding of the Society of Jesus in 1540, and the 500th anniversary of the birth of St. Ignatius in 1491. To mark these milestones, a worldwide Ignatian Year celebration began in the fall of 1990 and ended the following summer on July 31, the feast day of St. Ignatius.

At Fairfield University, the highlight of the Ignatian Year was the completion of the new Egan Chapel of St. Ignatius Loyola.  On December 6, 1990, Bishop Edward Egan of the Diocese of Bridgeport concelebrated the chapel’s dedication Mass with 40 Jesuit priests.

The Campus Ministry Center, named for Pedro Arrupe, S.J., is located on the floor below the chapel.  Since 1990, it has been a magnet for students of all faiths interested in exploring their spirituality and discovering what it means to be a person of faith in this world.  Retreats, community service projects, social justice programs, and interfaith ecumenical programs operate out of the Center.

In the 90s, a group of Fairfield students originated a service program that ministered to children whose parents had HIV/AIDS — the first and only program of its kind in the country. Cardboard City, a social justice event in which students slept outside the Campus Center in boxes to draw attention to the plight of the homeless, was a familiar annual sight on campus each fall. And the annual Hunger Cleanup, in which Stags joined thousands of undergrads from hundreds of colleges across the country for a national day of community service, continues to this day.

 

Big Shot

The rolling hills of Fairfield’s bucolic campus came alive with the sound of great music during the 90s, thanks to notable concert performances by Melissa Etheridge, 10,000 Maniacs, and Squeeze, to name a few. But only one musician received an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Fairfield and then returned five years later to perform on stage at the Quick Center: Billy Joel.

Controversy surrounded the selection of Joel as 1991 Commencement speaker after a philosophy professor denounced his song “Only the Good Die Young” as anti-Catholic. Fairfield’s President at the time, Rev. Aloysius P. Kelley, S.J., defended the choice, praising Joel for his commitment to many important causes including the environment and teen suicide prevention.

Acknowledging that he never graduated from high school and had not gone to college, Joel made light of the controversy in his speech, admitting that when first approached to deliver the Commencement address “…my initial reaction was not too dissimilar to a certain philosophy professor who’s on the faculty here.” He then went on to share with the Class of ’91 the life lessons he learned at “the University of Rock and Roll.”

In 1996 Joel returned to Fairfield University to conduct a “Master Class” in which he performed and held a Q&A session for an enthusiastic Quick Center audience.

 

Cheers for the Cheapie

If you were a Fairfield undergrad during the 90s, you may have relied on the “Cheers and Boos” section of The Mirror to gauge the social climate on campus.  If you were a resident of Kostka or Claver during this time, you probably told people you lived in “The Orient” (because those dorms were located on the far-east corner of campus). And if you lived in the Quad, you were most likely a late-night patron of the student-run deli that was tucked into a corner of the ground floor of Gonzaga Hall.

The least expensive menu item at the deli achieved cult status among hungry cash-strapped Stags burning the midnight oil: the cheapie.  Beloved mostly for its price point, Fairfield lore holds that the cheapie originated in the 80s as a roll with just lettuce and tomato.  It cost $1.00 and if you ordered a “cheapie with cheese,” the cheese cost extra.

By 1990, the basic cheapie had evolved to include cheese, and the price had increased accordingly.  This change was not well-received at first, judging by the “Cheers and Boos” section of an October 1990 issue of The Mirror which gave a Boo  “to only getting two slices of cheese on your cheapie from the deli…we’re paying $1.50 now kids, come on…” Still, the iconic cheapie remained popular and in the 1995 Manor yearbook, students looked back fondly on “midnight cheapie runs.”

 

The Levee

In 1995, a new campus pub opened. It’s name, The Levee, references the Don McLean song, “American Pie,” which campus folklore claims he wrote in a Regis Hall dorm room. This myth has long been debunked, but the legend — like the bar — remains.

At its grand opening during Senior Week 1995, The Levee served its very first beer to Fr. Kelley.  This is not a legend — the moment is immortalized behind the bar in a framed photo of Fr. Kelley paying for his Budweiser draft.

Senior Mug Night, a weekly tradition at The Levee, began with dollar drafts and pizza for members of the senior class.  It continues to this day, and is a privilege that underclassmen look forward to.

 

Stags vs. Tar Heels

Fairfield University won the MAAC men’s basketball crown in 1997 and earned an automatic bid to the NCAAs.  According to The Mirror, Fairfield coach Paul Cormier hoped their first-round NCAA game against number one-ranked University of North Carolina would “be close so that ‘CBS would have to switch to Winston-Salem’ to show the whole country what the boys from Connecticut were doing.”

Cormier’s wish came true: the number 16-ranked Stags played so well that Carolina didn’t gain full control until the final minutes of the game. The broadcasters took notice and the Fairfield-UNC matchup became the nationally televised game for its entire second half.

Cormier’s team made a big impression on college hoops fans across the country, and Fairfield students traveling on spring break were able to tune in from their vacation destinations to watch the Stags force the Tar Heels to prove their #1 ranking.

 

The Year of the Lady Stags

Four Fairfield University women’s sports teams won MAAC titles in 1998: soccer, basketball, volleyball and tennis.  It was the second straight MAAC title for the women’s soccer team, and their first NCAA appearance. They lost to UConn in round one, but won their third straight MAAC crown the following year.  Coincidentally, the women’s basketball team also faced UConn in their first round of NCAA play. In volleyball’s first NCAA appearance, the team fell to Ohio State but climbed back to the top of the MAAC again in 1999.

 

Y2K

In the fall of 1999, Fairfield University informed students that it would begin transitioning from the traditional lottery system for course selection to an online registration process for the spring 2000 semester.  The Mirror predicted that the new process would “bring Fairfield into the twenty-first century and enable students a faster and easier way to register.”

During this transition, Fairfield also formed a Y2K committee that was working hard to avoid the potentially massive technical glitch, or “Y2K bug,” which threatened to hit just as the clocks chimed in the new millennium. It was estimated that across the country, the U.S. spent around $100 billion to protect against this massive end-of-the-millennium malfunction.

 

September 11, 2001

Under a brilliant blue sky on the warm and sunny afternoon of September 11, 2001, a sea of people streamed out of Fairfield’s residence halls, classrooms and offices. They gathered together in silent shock on the lawn outside of Egan Chapel, to pray.

As the outdoor Mass began, birds chirped and helicopters whirred toward the distant cloud of smoky haze rising over lower Manhattan. Campus Ministry members offered consolation and support.

The day’s classes had been canceled and campus security was heightened. Counseling Services worked tirelessly to help students, faculty and employees affected by the events of that morning. In the days that followed, the Fairfield community would mourn the loss of a student’s parent, 14 alumni, and scores of friends, relatives, neighbors, and colleagues who died in the World Trade Center attacks.

The alumni killed in the attacks were: Michael R. Andrews ’89, Jonathan N. Cappello ’00, Christopher J. Dunne ’95, Steven M. Hagis ’91, H. Joseph Heller ’86, Michael G. Jacobs ’69, Michael P. Lunden ’86, Francis N. McGuinn ’74, Patrick J. McGuire ’82, William E. Micciulli ’93, Marc A. Murolo ’95, Christopher T. Orgielewicz ’87, Johanna L. Sigmund ’98, and Christopher P. Slattery ’92.

 

Built to Last

As written up in the 2002 Manor yearbook, Fairfield University endured “renovation and construction, technology and tragedy, scandal and scare” at the turn of the century. Both the new Alumni House and the Village Apartments (renamed Meditz Hall) opened in 2000. Two major building expansions — to the Barone Campus Center and Nyselius Library — were completed in 2002.

Still struggling to make sense of the terror attacks the year before, an anthrax scare and a classroom hostage situation rattled the campus in ’02, but its “heart and core of Jesuit beliefs remained stable — a force amid the backdrop of Fairfield’s evolution.”

During Homecoming Weekend 2002, an on-campus memorial was dedicated to commemorate the 14 Fairfield University alumni who tragically lost their lives on 9/11. Situated in front of Alumni House, the memorial includes a section of a steel beam that was once part of the original World Trade Center in New York City.

 

From APK to JvA

After 25 years at Fairfield University, Fr. Kelley turned Bellarmine Hall’s Office of the President over to Rev. Jeffrey von Arx, S.J., in 2004. In a personal interview with The Mirror that fall, Fr. von Arx shared that he is left-handed, a Yankees fan, and that as a child he was sometimes called by his initials, JvA. “We used to call Fr. Kelley ‘APK,’” the student told him before asking, “Can we call you ‘JvA?’”
“Not when you introduce me to your mother!” quipped Fr. von Arx.

 

“Prez Ball”

In celebration of his first anniversary at Fairfield, Fr. von Arx invited students to attend a semi-formal Presidential Ball at Bellarmine Hall.  Luminaries lined the path from the chapel to Bellarmine, where Fr. von Arx welcomed 600 students for dinner and dancing under a festive white party tent.  Cheers erupted when Fr. von Arx announced his intention to make Presidential Ball an annual tradition for the duration of his time at Fairfield. True to his word, “Prez Ball” became a much-anticipated annual back-to-school event.

 

Kelley Center

In honor of the longest-serving president in Fairfield University’s history, an impressive new state-of-the-art administrative building and welcoming center was opened in 2005, named the Aloysius P. Kelley, S.J., Center.  In addition to offices, the Kelley Center houses a 90-seat auditorium for multimedia presentations, seven interview rooms and a large reception area. Centrally located on campus, the building serves students’ administrative needs and also functions as an admissions center for prospective students.

 

Midnight Breakfast

The most festive holiday tradition on Fairfield’s campus is the annual Midnight Breakfast, held in the Barone dining hall on the last day of classes in December. Volunteers from Fairfield’s faculty and staff serve up a late-night feast to students dressed in Santa hats, reindeer antlers, and holiday-themed attire. Students embrace the opportunity to sing, dance, and blow off steam before final exams begin. First held in 2001, the beloved event continues to be so popular that the most recent Midnight Breakfast had three seatings.

 

Stag Statue

There are often deer sightings around Fairfield’s leafy acreage, but only one official Stag has been a permanent and popular fixture in the center of campus since 2009. The two-ton bronze statue was created by Montana rancher-turned-sculptor, J.C. Dye, and acquired through anonymous donations.

Hundreds of alumni, students, and staff braved a chilly October wind to witness the unveiling of the campus mascot during Homecoming/Alumni and Family Weekend. “I don’t think the weather can stop the Stag pride that’s in the air tonight,” Rob Scribner ’09 told The Mirror.

 

Superstorm Sandy

Fairfield University’s proximity to the shoreline is traditionally regarded as an asset, but through the years coastal storms have reminded University officials and student beach residents of the downside.  In recent times, nor’easters have disrupted finals, caused damage to the library’s roof and book collection, and one even dumped 6 inches of snow on Halloween revelers in 2011. But none of those storms had the impact of Sandy.

Classes were canceled for a week after the torrential rain, rising tides and high winds of Superstorm Sandy hit Fairfield over Halloween weekend in 2012. 400 University students were among the thousands evacuated from the Fairfield beach area. Weeks later, many students were still living temporarily with landlords, piled into campus dormitories, and even staying with Fr. von Arx at his private residence.

 

The more things change…

At times it feels like nothing ever stays the same on Fairfield’s campus – as of this writing, additions and expansions are underway to the Barone Campus Center and the Egan School of Nursing and Health Sciences building. A parking garage and a new residence hall are being constructed. Plans for a $40 million new home for the Dolan School of Business were just announced. A new University President is about to be inaugurated.

 

…the more they stay the same.

And yet, year after year, Fairfield’s Manor yearbooks tell a story that is reassuringly familiar.  A new group of students follows in the footsteps of the students before them: moving into dorms, sharing meals at the dining hall, heading to class. They pick up some of the old Stag traditions like Hunger Cleanup, Senior Week, and Clam Jam. And then they start new Fairfield traditions like Jail and Bail, Mock Wedding and #FUTurkeys.

The future Manor yearbooks have yet to be published, but if the past is any indication, they are going to look completely different.  And a lot alike. ●F