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Southern Utah University
In 1898, Cedar City residents gathered to dedicate the Old Main building that served as the foundation for Southern Utah University.

From its humble beginning 110 years ago, Southern Utah University has been a vital part of the Cedar City community.

During its founding day celebration today, officials hope to take the teaching school back to its roots with vintage decor, the planting of a time capsule, campus tours and log-sawing competitions. Old Main will also be rededicated, unifying the community with the campus once again as it was in March 1898.

"The community put their lives on the line to get that school here," said Cedar City Mayor Gerald R. Sherratt. He said that more than a century ago, residents donated land, services and supplies to build the first building on SUU's campus in order to secure state funding to begin their future university.

In the worst recorded winter of that century, Sherratt said men went to the mountains for timber, made bricks by hand and sold their individual shares of stock in the city's mercantile store to buy glass and doorknobs, just to get the school built.

"They saw this as an opportunity," he said. The school was originally founded as a teacher training institute, to provide the area with quality educators. "It was a way of changing the whole course of the city," Sherratt said. "It changed their livelihood."

As part of the celebration, SUU will dedicate two new structures, the Carter Carillon and the Emma Eccles Jones Teacher Education Building.

Interactive tours from 3 to 5 p.m. will showcase student work and curricula models and demonstrate technology inside the new education building. Old Main will feature an information kiosk, where visitors can learn about the roots of the historic building. Contents of a time capsule, to be opened 90 years from now at the university's bicentennial celebration, will be presented and then buried beneath the Carter Carillon at 3:15 p.m.

"While students may not totally appreciate what history means when they set foot on this campus, I hope they recognize how many sacrifices were made to establish the institution 111 years ago," said SUU President Michael T. Benson. "They are the beneficiaries of a lot of hard work on the part of a lot of people."

The success of the university, Sherratt said, "has taught the Cedar City people to do whatever they want to do." With its 6,000-plus student body, he said the school has become a vital part of the economy in Cedar City.

"It's also the center for the cultural life of our city," he said. "It sets the tone and is the standard by which everything else in the community is judged."

The university has led the state in enrollment growth for the past three years. Benson says word is getting out about SUU's niche of being a "private school experience at a public school price." He boasts the school has an average class size of 20 students.

"It's obvious we've got a good thing going," he said. "It's a very noble past, but it's also a bright future and the students are part of that."

A dedication ceremony begins at 1:30 p.m. at the Randall Jones Theatre, a reception and banquet will follow. For more information, visit suu.edu.

E-mail: [email protected]