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May 6, 2010

UW dedicates study center in Leon, Spain

As of this week, the Huskies are officially part of Leon, Spain.

The UW opened its second European center May 4, with the dedication of El Palacio del Conde de Luna. The city of Leon has lent the University 9,000 square feet in the Renaissance tower of the palace rent free for 10 years.

“Leon has welcomed us with open arms from the beginning, some five years ago, from the university to the mayor’s office to the press and the people,” said Tony Geist, chairman of UW Spanish and Portuguese Studies who is in Leon for the ceremony. “This incredible facility is not only a wonderful opportunity for UW students and faculty but also allows us to give back. We hope the Leon Center will become a cultural resource for the city and the region.”

Leon is also celebrating its 1,100th anniversary. As part of the celebration, King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia will visit the city and participate in the center dedication.

An art exhibit featuring 18th century crystal from the Royal Glass Factory in La Granja will mark the opening.

The center will include classrooms, a seminar room, a library and an exhibit hall that could also serve as a conference site or film screening room.

Certificate programs may be offered to the local community, but plans are in the early stages.

UW units planning to use the center include art, Spanish, dance, music, the Honors Program and various English language programs.

“The Leon Center is an important part of efforts to offer our students an education that truly prepares them for our increasingly globalized society,” said Ana Mari Cauce, UW dean of Arts & Sciences, who is also in Leon for the ceremony. “Spanish is one of the world’s most-spoken languages, and this is but one of our partnerships with Spain. Others bring world-class artists to the UW, like Nacho Duato’s ballet, and send our students to be teachers or teaching assistants.

“The center will not only be a focal point for our students in Spain but also serve as a base for research conferences in Europe, and the citizens of Castilla-Leon.”

Built in the 14th century, the Palacio del Conde Luna (Palace of Count Luna) was the seat of the Kingdom of Leon before Christian Spain united under King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella in 1469.

Originally a Gothic structure, the palace gained a three-story tower in the 16th century, built for the daughter of Hernan Cortes, conqueror of Mexico.

In 2009, the entire building underwent a $33.6 million renovation.

In Rome, the UW operates a similar center. Opened in 1984, it’s in the Palazzo Pio, which overlooks the Campo di Fiori and includes classrooms, offices and several apartments.