Building celebrated, lives remembered

by Beacon Staff • October 25, 2006

Following the ceremony, attendees gathered outside for the unveiling of a silver memorial plaque for construction workers Robert Beane, 41, and Romildo Silva, 27, and Dr.,The Emerson College community commemorated the lives of the three men who died last April during the construction of Piano Row in a small ceremony in the now-complete Max Mutchnick Campus Center last Tuesday.

Following the ceremony, attendees gathered outside for the unveiling of a silver memorial plaque for construction workers Robert Beane, 41, and Romildo Silva, 27, and Dr. Michael Ty, 28.

President Jacqueline Liebergott spoke from a podium in the building's lobby as relatives of the deceased lined up against the red-tiled wall opposite the staircase on the first floor.

Liebergott called the ceremony "solemn but reaffirming" and praised the family members on their "steadfast faith and indomitable spirit."

Rabbi Al Axelrad, chair of the Center for Spiritual Life, called the deaths "a blow that has affected all of us profoundly." Axelrad said the entire Emerson community joined in mourning with those who knew the men personally.

Shrouded in black until its unveiling, the plaque on the front of the Piano Row Residence Hall was uncovered by members of the victims' families.

Among the crowd was Edilaine Teixeira, widow of Romildo Silva, holding their 3-year-old son, Ryan.

"The plaque is a sign of deep respect, deep admiration and the deepest of caring," Axelrad said.

In an official statement, Student Government Association President Jamal Barone said, "The dedication ceremony showed great humility in recognizing the unfortunate events. The Emerson student body cannot help but feel a connection to what happened and it's a nice gesture to have this for closure."

Jonathan Schwab, an Emerson journalism graduate student, was on the sixth floor of the Walker Building when the scaffolding fell but did not attend the ceremony.

"What happened was a tragedy," Schwab said. "I received some e-mails about the memorial and plaque and am glad Emerson is doing it. I'm not sure what else the college could do, other than make sure the area is safe."

David Rosen, vice president of public affairs, said the idea for the plaque was Liebergott's.

"I think what's different about this plaque is it's right out front and not tucked away in some corner," Rosen said. "It's right where the accident happened. You can see the ragged corner of the building the scaffolding hit if you look up."

This ceremony preceded the official opening and dedication of the Max Mutchnick Campus Center and Piano Row Residence Hall last Friday. Among the crowd at the opening were Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino and Max Mutchnick, Emerson alumni '87 and creator of the Emmy-winning sitcom, "Will Grace."

Mayor Menino said Emerson has made significant contributions to Boston as a city and praised the college for rejuvenating the city's theatre district.

"Emerson College had a vision with what they could do here," Menino said. "This is a place where students will really shape their future to help us move the city, move this country forward."

Mutchnick revealed the name of the Campus Center from behind a red curtain as well as cut a cake-replica of the Residence Hall.

"I was transformed by Emerson," Mutchnick said. "The student body was and still is ahead of its time. I could leave this institution an incredibly comfortable gay man."

During her remarks, Liebergott spoke about the significance of the building not only for student life and student activities but also as a historical milestone in the Emerson College community, as it marks the completion of the fourteen-year-long campus relocation project.

"For me, personally, it represents a dream come true," Liebergott said. "The building makes Emerson a comprehensive and cohesive campus."

Rosen said the new building was the first dormitory that Emerson has constructed since its founding.

Al Jaffe, vice president of talent negotiation and production recruitment at ESPN and Emerson alumni '68 was the donor for the Radio and TV News Directors Association (RTNDA) Room.

"It was the perfect room for me to donate since I've been a member of RTNDA since the '70s," Jaffe said. "It's great to see how the college has revitalized itself."

The Piano Row Residence Hall and Max Mutchnick Campus Center is fourteen stories high with three underground levels, with living space for approximately 560 students.

Chris Caughey, the general supervisor from Macomber Builders who oversaw the 18 months of construction on the building, said he felt great to see the Residence Hall completed.

"Our motto was 'get her done,'" Caughey said.

Dean of Students Ronald Ludman recalled 31 months prior when Emerson was just breaking ground on the Residence Hall.

"We gathered around a hole in the ground with hard hats and shovels," Ludman said.

"Now, we need party hats and trumpets."