U Celebrates Opening of Cleone Peterson Eccles Alumni House

Spence Eccles, center, surrounded by family and U leaders at the ribbon cutting of the Cleone Peterson Eccles Alumni House. L to R: Former U President David Pershing; U President Ruth Watkins; Alumni Board President Joe Sargetakis; Alumni House Transformation Chair Michele Mattsson; Eccles children Katie, Spencer, Lisa and Hope with families; Alumni Assn. Executive Director John Ashton; and The MUSS President Michael Holzrichter.

In the words of University of Utah President Ruth V. Watkins, less than three weeks after officially taking office: “What a fantastic way to start a presidency!”

Thanks to a $4 million lead gift from the Spencer F. and Cleone P. Eccles Family and the added generosity of many alumni and friends, President Watkins joined with alumni, friends, students, faculty and staff on April 18, to dedicate the U’s spectacular new gathering place in the heart of campus—the Cleone Peterson Eccles Alumni House.

“Named for someone so dear to our hearts,” said President Watkins, “I know this ‘house’ will be far more a ‘home’ for the thousands of us who count the University of Utah as a treasured part of our lives.”

The 17,000-square-foot expansion nearly doubles the size of the headquarters for the Alumni Association and its multiple boards, now serving 270,000 alumni worldwide through outreach, service, scholarship, and education programs. Throughout the building’s interior, the design and furnishings reflect the essence of its namesake’s gracious hospitality, warmth, and elegance.

“Cleone’s love for the U and interest in the success of its students were boundless,” said Spencer F. Eccles. “Beginning with our student days when Cleone and I first met, our family’s affection for our alma mater has never wavered … and the Alumni Association has been at the heart of our involvement over these many years.”

The building’s new exterior features exquisite native Utah stone, and its spacious floor-to-ceiling windows, patios, and step-out balconies offer spectacular views, including of the iconic Block U. Expanded conference and reception areas offer more opportunities for meetings and special events, and a “garden level” is home for The MUSS and student boards. The beautiful, second-level ballroom, offering dining for up to 400 guests, promises to be a popular new venue for campus or private events such as weddings, graduation celebrations, and reunions.

“During Mom’s years of service on the Alumni Board, we experienced first-hand her great enthusiasm for all things ‘Utah’ and the treasured friendships she made with fellow board members and the entire U community,” said daughter Katie Eccles Burnett, speaking on behalf of her sisters, Hope and Lisa, and brother Spencer P. Eccles. A former Young Alumni Board President herself, Katie added, “Mom’s work on behalf of the U’s students and alumni meant so much to her! Our family is so pleased that this lovely building honors her and her extraordinary example and commitment to the U.”

Additional major donors to the project include O.C. Tanner Charitable Trust, George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation, Kem and Carolyn Gardner, University Federal Credit Union, Jeff and Helen Cardon, Dr. Ezekiel R. and Edna Wattis Dumke Foundation, Kay and Zeke Dumke, Jr., Ronald E. Henriksen, Sorenson Legacy Foundation, U Alumni Association, and The MUSS.

A beautiful glass donor wall, visible from both the interior and exterior of the building, pays tribute to all those contributing $1,000 or more. With campaign efforts continuing through the end of 2018, space has been saved to add even more contributors as the Alumni Association nears its $11.4 million fundraising goal.