Cover Story

Now That's the Spirit

Efforts underway to reignite school pride and tradition at SU

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Morgan Mushlitz, ‘13, is a leader in building Redhawk spirit on campus, clearly winning over Dee Zimmerman. Dee’s husband, Tony Zimmerman, ‘60, is a Chieftain through and through, so for him, this Redhawk thing might take a little more time.

Chris Joseph Taylor


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SU red was in full effect as a record crowd turned out for the SU vs. UW basketball game Feb 22.

Tony Zimmerman, '60, is a Chieftain through and through. As season ticket holders, Tony and his wife, Dee, are often seen in the crowd at SU men’s basketball games, cheering on the team, flanked by other Chieftains and Redhawks.


For Zimmerman, a lifelong basketball fan, the games capture a bit of the glory days he experienced during the program’s successful run in the 1950s, with the prowess of the famed O’Brien twins, Ed and John, and the 1958 NCAA championship game with Elgin Baylor and the SU team taking on Kentucky.
In those days, SU basketball captured the attention of a city with fewer entertainment choices, and students held membership in something that set them apart.


“It was standing room only,” Zimmerman says. “The atmosphere was great.”


With the shift back to Division I, Zimmerman believes that school support and spirit is on the uptick. But returning to the epicenter of student life will take time.


“Basketball put SU on the map,” says Zimmerman. “Father Lemieux was the number one basketball fan. Everybody at SU lived and breathed basketball. ... I think the spirit is there.” How to rekindle the level of enthusiasm and outward pride that was so much a part of the SU experience during Zimmerman’s time here is on the minds of many in the university community.


What pride means—and if Seattle University has a shortage of it—differs depending on whom you ask.
For some, it is conspicuous at select basketball games at KeyArena at Seattle Center, such as when the men’s team takes on Oregon State or the University of Washington.


Pride can take root in university accomplishments in many areas, though most agree that better attendance at athletics events is the most visible measurement. But it’s not the only measurement. Others see spirit alive and thriving when a few hundred students and members of the campus turn out for the annual International Dinner or when bodies fill Campion Ballroom for the Battle of the Bands. Others might say that pride at SU is generated by academic success, illustrated by the achievements of our students and faculty, our extraordinary run of students winning Truman Scholarships and our prominent rankings in U.S. News & World Report and the Princeton Review Best Colleges Guide. For students, joining a club or organization on campus is a way to meet new people while showing pride in the institution. Alumni can volunteer as mentors or advisers for students or attend one of the many lectures that bring notable authors, artists and scholars to campus.

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Quadstock


“Having pride in your school also means giving back to your school,” says Renata Opoczynski, assistant director of Student Activities. “Not only financially, but also as mentors or participants in student programs. Giving back shows that SU means a lot to you.”


One student group working hard to improve school spirit is the REDZONE, a student-based organization that focuses its work on pumping up enthusiasm at SU athletic events.
Freshman Eric Chalmers, ’14, is involved with the REDZONE as vice president of game day operations— essentially in charge of coordinating a cheering section at games.
His hope is that by the time he enters his senior year, attending the games will be a must for students and alumni.


“Many people may still think of SU more for academics and not for sports,” he says. New communication programs about games and the free bus service from campus to KeyArena are so far showing mixed results. Even after numerous e-mail reminders of the service, many seem unaware that it exists and may skip a game because it’s off campus, and parking in downtown Seattle near the arena can be difficult and costly. But there is hope that the atmosphere is ripe for pride-building.
“Today I would say spirit is building. It has a ton of potential and is moving in the right direction. Ideally I would love to have a cheering section like that of Duke and Gonzaga, but something unique for SU.”


Working with students, university leadership recognizes that campus spirit is kindled in many ways, including revising traditions and starting new ones. Battle of the Bands


“We have to ask ourselves if we are able to provide students with the events and moments that they can rally around,” says Jake Diaz, vice president of Student Development. “The challenge is that we could be doing more around other university-wide traditions for students to express themselves.”


To get clarity on how to build pride, through activities or the starting of new traditions, members of the university recently organized a Campus Pride and Traditions Committee tasked with identifying ways to bolster existing events and happenings and look for ways the campus and alumni can get more involved. Already in existence are a slew of programs and activities that aim to cultivate pride. In the fall and spring quarters, students join faculty and staff in rolling up their sleeves to help beautify a green space or community center in a day devoted to service, a clear measure of pride in SU and in the surrounding neighborhood. Another outlet to express pride is Quadstock, the springtime music and arts festival that fills SU’s hangout spot—the Quad—with a sea of bodies bobbing and dancing to the beats of local and national bands. Students started a new tradition this past Christmas season of lighting a majestic tree in front of the library and learning commons. The event, dubbed “Illuminating the Holidays,” brought together not only a large SU presence but also our neighbors who packed the space on a chilly early December evening for Christmas carols, hot chocolate and an old-fashioned tree lighting. It was a sight to behold as students including ASSU President Kevin Eggers, ’11, donned festive Christmas attire— including kitschy Christmas sweaters—and spread a healthy heaping of yuletide cheer. This tradition is one that Diaz points to as a sign that pride does have a pulse here.

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