Campus: CSU East Bay -- July 8, 2005

'Topping Off' Celebration Will Be July 14

A centuries-old "topping off" tradition will be observed on the California State University, East Bay campus in Hayward on Thursday, July 14 when the last important steel beam is raised by a crane and welded into position at the highest point of the Wayne and Gladys Valley Business and Technology Center.

The ceremony will be held at 10:30 a.m. at the construction site on the east side of the campus near the G Parking Lot at 25800 Carlos Bee Blvd.

The university broke ground on the project last fall and the topping off event will mark the completion of steel framing on the four-story, 67,000 square-foot center, scheduled for completion in mid-2006.

The topping off event will feature the autographing by ceremony participants of a 16-foot steel beam that will be hoisted into place along with, according to tradition, a small tree. Participants will include university President Norma Rees, some of the donors who contributed a total of $10.5 million toward the cost, campus employees and students, and work crews of the Flintco Creative Solutions construction company.

"The topping-off ceremony is a traditional event marking the completion of a new building's frame," President Rees said. "It is special for Cal State East Bay because we have waited so long and worked so hard to have this building. I look forward to this celebration, and especially to the ribbon-cutting that will take place next year when the Wayne and Gladys Valley Business and Technology Center is complete."

"Topping off ceremonies go way back in history as a time to celebrate when the highest structural element goes into place," said Mark Eppard, Flintco's project manager. "It's also a reminder of what's holding up the building."

"Topping off is a major milestone in any major project," added Matt Scoble of Consolidated CM, which is managing the project for the university. "In this case, it will send a message to the university and the community that we're making significant progress on the Business and Technology Center."

Topping-off ceremonies predate steel-frame skyscrapers by about 1,200 years, according to Boston University anthropologist Peter Wood. Writing in the December 2003, issue of the National Review, Wood said the earliest references date from around 700 A.D., when Scandinavians topped off construction of new halls with sheathes of grain for Odin's horse, Slepnir. Odin, supposedly impressed with this consideration for his horse - and with the raucous good cheer of the crowd - bestowed good luck on the future occupants.

Wood wrote that European immigrants reportedly brought the ceremony with them to America, where steel and iron workers still celebrate getting the hardest part of the job done.

"The little tree announces not just the workers' pride in their accomplishment, but also high spirits and sheer delight in the event," Wood wrote.

The Wayne and Gladys Valley Business and Technology Center will be the first new academic building on the Hayward campus of Cal State East Bay since 1971 and will serve as the campus hub for technology-enhanced teaching, learning and research in all academic disciplines. The center will provide a state-of-the-art home for programs in business, technology management, engineering, multimedia, science, and online degree programs.

The center will house the College of Business & Economics, which has approximately 3,500 undergraduate and graduate students.

Media Contact: Kim Huggett, Dir. of Public Affairs, (510) 885-2032, kim.huggett@csueastbay.ed

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