by George Looby, DVM
For the past 63 years the W.B. Young Building on the campus of the University of Connecticut has served as the center of activity for the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources serving the many needs of the college. In this building are housed the administrative offices, the extension service, classrooms, laboratories, support staff and others. The Young Building was erected during the period of rapid expansion in the immediate post-World War II period to fill the needs of a university that was growing at rapid rate to accommodate the needs of returning veterans who benefited from the GI Bill. This Bill was, without doubt, one of the more outstanding pieces of legislation ever passed by Congress, without which an entire generation of Americans would have struggled to achieve the greatness that they did. The building has begun to show its age, having gone through a period during which the university was unable to maintain the necessary level of maintenance and repair to its physical plant.
For many graduates, returning to campus many years later to visit the building was like stepping into a time capsule — it was very much like it had been 50 plus years before. Fortunately the Connecticut legislature saw fit to allocate funding to update and expand both the physical plant and many of the academic programs university-wide.
Wilfred B. Young served as Dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources from 1945 to 1966, during which time he also served as Director of the Storrs Agricultural Experiment Station and Director of the Cooperative Extension Service of the University of Connecticut. During his tenure the number of faculty more than doubled as did the number of undergraduate students and course offerings. A number of new buildings were constructed during the Young years, including the Young Building, so named after his death in 1978. The dean was active in many boards, committees and other activities both on and off campus.
With renovations completed it was fitting that on Oct. 11 a brief ceremony was held to rededicate the W.B. Young Building with words of welcome from current Dean Gregory Weidemann. The dean acknowledged members of the Young family in attendance in addition to University Provost Mun Choi and Commissioner of Agriculture Steven Reviczky. Special thanks went to Mr. and Mrs. Don Maynard who funded the new Student Lounge, and to alumni of the college who funded the conference room.
University Provost Mun Choi congratulated Dean Weidemann on the work that he put forth to insure the college received the funding needed to renovate the Young Building and upgrades to other buildings and programs. Achieving this in the university environment can often be a daunting task, as competition for funding among the several colleges can be intense.
One of Dean Young’s daughters, Marna Young Thomas, spoke of her father’s recruitment by Dean Garrigus in 1931 from the bright lights of the Chicago stockyards to the pastoral countryside of Storrs, CT. Life in Chicago included a few brushes with the fringes of the Capone operation which made the move to Connecticut quite easy. When the family settled on Spring Hill in Storrs, Marna’s mother often housed students from Purdue while they studied at what was then the Connecticut Agricultural College. In that way she was able to maintain her ties to her home state of Indiana.
Wilfred Young was a strong advocate for equal pay for women, long before that became a topic deemed worthy of discussion in university circles, and he went the extra mile to insure that those who reported to him were afforded equal compensation.
At the conclusion of Ms. Thomas’ remarks there was a traditional ribbon-cutting ceremony with members of the Young family participating. This ceremony was a fitting tribute to an outstanding leader from the universities past and recognition of the accomplishments the present dean has been able to achieve.