UI celebrates ‘inspiring’ year for flood recovery

Photos from the flood of 2008 hang in the Pentacrest during a community celebration June 15. Three major arts buildings are opening this year after the original facilities were destroyed by the flood.

Eight years ago this month, the view from atop the Pentacrest was one of devastation.

Today, it’s one of inspiration.

The University of Iowa community came together June 15 to celebrate a landmark year in the recovery from the historic flood of 2008. The disaster decimated one-sixth of the campus and closed a quarter of the UI’s general assignment classrooms, resulting in nearly a decade of rebuilding efforts.

“I speak for many in saying how inspired we are of what all of you did to support our university and this community in 2008,” Rod Lehnertz, 02MBA, UI’s vice president for finance and operations, told attendees at the celebration on the Pentacrest.

Attendees of the June 15 celebration wrote on a chalkboard their answer to the question, “What about the University of Iowa inspires you?”

“Inspire” is the university’s theme for this coming academic year, with the new Hancher Auditorium, Voxman Music Building, and Visual Arts Building opening ahead of the fall semester. Each of those buildings are replacements for facilities lost in the flood, when the Iowa River swamped the arts campus and beyond.

Clinton Street, where the new School of Music is poised to open, has been renamed “Inspiration Avenue” in recognition of the banner year, which will also include the opening of the Stead Family Children’s Hospital in December.

Wednesday’s celebration featured food, music, and remarks from community leaders, including Regenia Bailey, who was Iowa City’s mayor in 2008, and Jim Fausett, Coralville’s mayor that year.

Bailey said the cities and university pulled together in the aftermath of the flood, forging a closer relationship that has carried forth in other areas, including downtown betterment projects and collaborations for summer festivals.

Regenia Bailey, who was Iowa City’s mayor during the flood of 2008, speaks during the June 15 celebration on the Pentacrest.

Bailey, 82BM, 88MA, 95MBA, a UI alumna who studied music as an undergraduate and graduate student at the old Hancher/Voxman complex, said while the old buildings will be missed, she looks forward to the next chapter.

“These buildings may have changed in form and location, but I believe they have the same wonderful spirit,” Bailey said. “They will continue to inspire and community and young people from across the world.”

Senior academic advisor Martha Kirby, 95BLS, 97MA, who served as Staff Council president in 2008, reflected on the many ways the community rallied together during the disaster. Volunters sandbagged buildings, helped haul items out of the UI Libraries’ Special Collections, and saved costumes from storage in the Theatre Building.

“Iowans are known for their pull-it-up-by-your-bootstraps mentality, or grit, as we now like to call it,” Kirby said. “Well, this campus showed pure grit during the floods. Faculty, staff, and students responded to the call for help.”

—Josh O’Leary, Iowa Alumni Magazine

Banners line the Pentacrest on Wednesday highlighting the post-flood building projects set to be completed this year around campus.


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