The Mesquite Online News - Texas A&M University-San Antonio

Topping-Out Ceremony Recognizes New Beginnings

By Amanda Aguilar

Texas A&M-San Antonio will receive “beneficial occupancy” for the administration building on July 31, 2011. /Michelle Tymrak

A topping-out ceremony was held Nov. 5 to celebrate the  milestone of reaching the top level of construction on A&M-San Antonio’s first multi-use building. The building, slated to open in September 2011, will serve faculty, staff and students on the expanding campus located at 410 and Zarzamora in South San Antonio.

The ceremony was attended by faculty, staff and students, as well as contractors from Bartlett Cocke, who came out into the cold and windy morning to witness the event.

Dressed in full winter attire, guests wobbly made their way through the dirt and tiny rocks of the construction site.

With the 91,000 square foot building structure as a backdrop, President Dr. Maria Hernandez-Ferrier introduced Kirk Kistner, vice president of marketing and business development for Bartlett Cocke, to provide an overview of the new building and the meaning of the topping out ceremony.

“We’ve worked more than 36,000 accident free man hours on this project,” Kistner
said. “We’ve moved thousands of tons of earth and have placed more than 3,500 cubic yards of concrete to achieve what we have today.”

Contruction workers hammered and drilled as each speaker came to the podium, making it difficult for some guests to hear.

Kistner referred to the topping out ceremony as a party where an evergreen tree, symbolizing growth and luck, is placed on top of the new building. The tradition “originated in Scandinavia and then migrated to England in which Europeans have since then brought it to the United States,” Kistner said.

Texas Senator Jeff Wentworth followed by commemorating the event. Shortly afterward, Dr. Ferrier was presented a bouquet of flowers by A&M-San Antonio Board of Regents member Jim Schwertner, who shared his story of the first time he met Dr. Ferrier, referring to her as “the true first lady of San Antonio.”

“You are one of our special people, and we all know without you, this place wouldn’t be here,” Schwertner said. “We also know that we better saddle up and pay attention, because when you say something, the whole world listens.”

Student Government Association President Zaira Rodriguez, who took office mid-way through the fall semester, spoke on behalf of the student body. Rodriguez said that this particular structure will be used as the campus’ multi-purpose building and will hold the large new library. The building will also offer a bookstore, court yard and private faculty offices.

To conclude the ceremony, Dr. Ferrier planned to have a big “one, two, three” chant to raise the tree. However, upon arrival, she noticed the tree was already in place.

“I found out only this morning that they said it was too dangerous,” Dr. Ferrier said. “So how about to celebrate this, on three we all say ‘Jaggies!’”

Dr. Ferrier donned a white hard hat and was given a tour through the building escorted by Raymond Heath of Bartlett Cocke, as well as some of the speakers from the ceremony. A reporter was given access and followed along.

Once joined with the rest of the group in what will be the new large library, Heath said there would also be a large courtyard that will be centered around classrooms. Health also stated that local sandstone will be used in the skeletal structure of the building.

Despite wondering eyes and expressions of inquiry from the audience, it became apparent that the constant background noise of the loud construction wasn’t going to settle down. Bartlett Cocke’s Executive Vice-President Harry Moeller said he believed it was planned all along to have the construction continue throughout the ceremony.
Asked whether she was disturbed by the ongoing construction during the event, Dr. Ferrier replied that it was part of the ceremony.

“Oh, I thought it was so wonderful and exciting!” she said. “After all that’s what it’s all
about!”

Samantha Supulveda contributed to this report.

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