On Friday, Aug. 30, Mercer University held a dedication ceremony for Cruz Plaza, which commemorated the donors and design team, as well as introduced the plaza to the community.
Hosted by Mercer President William D. Underwood, the key speakers of the event included Robert Hughes, principal of HGOR Architects, Chris Sheridan, president of Chris R. Sheridan & Co., and the members of the Cruz Family.
The Cruz Plaza construction project broke ground on Dec. 12, 2012 first by removing Edgewood Avenue and then by providing architectural landscaping. Now, more than nine months later, what Underwood called the “heart of our campus,” was dedicated to recognize the efforts of the construction, design and founders of the project.
The event served as the official completion of the project. Underwood said that the Cruz Plaza dedication was “a historic event in the life of this university,” and was “every bit as historic as the (football) game.”
The plaza received its name from the primary donors of the project: Mercer graduates Milton L. Cruz, his father Juan L. Cruz Rosario and his sister Zoraida Cruz Torres.
Milton Cruz, now chairman, president and CEO of Medholdings Inc., said, “We want Mercer to continue the tradition of not only providing the highest education, but also building men and women of strong character, high moral values, high ethical values so that when they graduate, they will go out into the community to do good.”
Cruz continued by saying, “[Cruz Plaza] is a place where students, faculty, staff and the whole Mercer University community can come together, interact and learn from each other.”
Zoraida Cruz Torres said, “It’s an honor that our family is among the many contributors to this university.”
Chris Sheridan, president of the general contractors for the project, said, “The Cruz Family has opened their hearts and, by opening (their) hearts to Mercer, given the heart of the campus.”
President Underwood also commented on the Cruz Family’s generosity saying, “No family has a greater love or commit- ment to Mercer than the Cruz Family.”
Currently the geographical center of campus, according to President Underwood, “Cruz Plaza will be the center of (Mercerians’) college experience.”
Once the “eyesore” of the university’s Macon campus, the area now contains a large park, tables and chairs, two water features and hosts the site of the iconic Mercer Bear statue. Dr. James S. Netherton, executive vice president for Administration and Finance, said, “The design is multi-purpose,” adding that it may be considered for graduation ceremony purposes.
Ruth Drake, a Mercer alumni and namesake of the Homer and Ruth Drake Field House, attended the ceremony and said, “(Cruz) has done a wonderful job transforming everything: the buildings that are here look beautiful now. The whole environment has changed.”
Mercer student Allison Harrison said, “(Cruz Plaza) is a great space for students to enjoy the beauty of the campus. (The dedication) is a great way to introduce it to everybody and show our appreciation—especially for those who have helped provide financial support.”