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Bench Designer Stands Up to Take a Bow

The groundbreaking for the re-installation of UC’s 50-year-old “Herman Schneider” bench and plaza is set for Wednesday, Nov. 15. On hand will be the bench-and-plaza’s original designer, former architecture co-op student Jim Donnelly.

Date: 11/14/2006 12:00:00 AM
By: M.B. Reilly
Phone: (513) 556-1824

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The University of Cincinnati made educational history by inventing cooperative education in 1906. (Co-op is the practice wherein students alternate time spent in the classroom with paid, professional, workplace positions in order to gain real-world experience.) So, throughout 2006, UC is marking the centennial of co-op and its own role as founder.

In that regard, co-op’s 100th anniversary on the UC campus is not unlike celebrations held on campus throughout 1956 when co-op celebrated its 50th anniversary. Then, crowds came onto campus to view a large-scale exposition of co-op student work. Alumni and employers joined for a variety of campus events.

1956 co-op bench
Partial view of 1956 co-op bench and plaza.

One of those 1956 events was the installation of a bench and plaza honoring co-op's founder, Herman Schneider. It was installed on the west edge of UC’s Baldwin Quad.

Later, the works went into storage due to campus construction (in 2001). But now, as part of co-op’s centennial, the 50-year-old bench and plaza will be reinstalled and rededicated. The groundbreaking for this new plaza (and another one nearby) is set for Wednesday, Nov. 15, at the west end of Swift Hall. Ceremonies begin at 10:15 a.m., and the actual ground breaking is set for about 10:40 a.m.

On hand for the Nov. 15 ceremonies will be local alumni and architect Jim Donnelly who designed this original “Herman Schneider” bench and plaza 50 years ago in 1956.

Donnelly recalled, “The original bench and plaza were the brainchild of the then president of Cincinnati Milling Machine (today Milacron, Inc.). His name was Fred Geier. He wanted a 50th-anniverary bench because the company was a huge employer of co-op students at the time, and he’d been a personal friend of co-op founder Herman Schneider.”

So it was that Geier turned to the firm that Donnelly worked for at the time (Cyrus Baxter and Associates) to design the bench and plaza, and Donnelly – in turn – received the assignment to design the bench and plaza. His design assignment at the time really had nothing to do with the fact that he’d been a UC co-op as an architecture student. He had indeed worked for Cyrus Baxter and Associates (today BHDP) as a co-op before he was hired full-time after graduation.

“All of us hired into the firm had been UC co-op students at one time. It just so happened that I was chosen to design the bench and plaza,” said Donnelly adding that he chose the arcing, crescent shape of the 15-foot-wide bench because the sponsor, Milacron’s Fred Geier, had a fondness for sun dials. The bench’s arc was designed to recall the curvature of a sun dial.

View of new bench and plaza
PhotoShop illustration of the re-installed bench and plaza.

And so, appropriately, the re-installed Herman Schneider bench and plaza on the new Herman Schneider Quad (the former Baldwin Quad is also being renamed in honor of co-op founder Herman Schneider) will contain a sun dial as well as trees and lighting. In addition, a plaza and bust of Herman Schneider will be placed nearby, on a second plaza to be installed by spring 2007.

As mentioned, the original Herman Schneider bench and plaza slabs went into storage in 2001 due to campus construction. When visiting campus around that time, Donnelly noticed their absence. He admitted, “I just thought the project was gone, in a dumpster somewhere.”

He had no idea his 50-year-old work was going to be re-installed and rededicated until news about the Nov. 15 ground breaking was placed on UC’s Web site. There, it was seen by Jim Donnnelly’s son, Ned, who is associate director in the Registrar’s Office.

Stated Ned Donnelly, “I saw the news on the groundbreaking online. I called my dad to ask him if he hadn’t had something to do with the original design of the bench. I remember him mentioning it to me once when he visited campus after I came to work here in 1997. We’d seen the bench when I first started here, and he told me he designed it. Then, when he was on campus another time, he noticed it was gone.”

Now that the bench and plaza are coming back to campus, Jim, Ned and other family members will all come back too in order to attend the ground breaking. And Jim Donnelly’s hoping his design work will now remain in place until the 150th celebration of co-op in 2056.

Return to main release.

Three co-op employers, 1906-2006.

Agenda for groundbreaking.


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