January 8, 2013

Renovated Samuel E. Kelly Ethnic Cultural Center celebrates grand opening

Office of Minority Affairs & Diversity

exterior of Samuel E. Kelly Ethnic Cultural Center

Emile Pitre, UW

The Samuel E. Kelly Ethnic Cultural Center at the corner of Brooklyn Avenue NE and NE 40th Street reopens after an extensive 1.5-year renovation.

The University of Washington’s Office of Minority Affairs & Diversity will celebrate the grand opening of the newly renovated Samuel E. Kelly Ethnic Cultural Center with a pair of events Jan. 10-11.

The building, originally built in 1972 at the corner of Brooklyn Avenue NE and NE 40th Street, underwent an extensive 1.5-year renovation. It is named in honor of the late Samuel E. Kelly, the founding vice president for minority affairs at the UW and the university’s first African American senior administrator.

“We now become the largest and oldest college cultural center in the United States, as well as a significant point of pride for the Pacific Northwest,” said Marisa Herrera, director of the center. “We think it’s truly a unique space and there is nothing like it on another college campus. We are incredibly proud to call this space our new home.”

Interior of the Ethnic Cultural Center, with one of the historical murals from the original building

Emile Pitre, UW

The interior atrium of the newly renovated Samuel E. Kelly Ethnic Cultural Center with one of the 22 murals saved from the original building.

An invitation-only reception will be held Thursday to commemorate the naming of the new center with Kelly’s family.

On Friday, the campus and local community is invited to the “Light Up the Night” event beginning at 5 p.m. with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Activities will also include building tours, student performances and historical video viewings. UW President Michael K. Young and Sheila Edwards Lange, vice president for minority affairs and vice provost for diversity, will speak. The event is free, but R.S.V.P.s are requested.

The new center:

  • Is the first UW building to be named for an African-American.
  • Contains 25,000 square feet and is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, certified.
  • Was architecturally designed by former UW students Alex Rolluda, ’89, and Sam Cameron, ’75, of Rolluda and Associates.
  • Has 22 of the historical murals from the original building.
  • Naming the new center in Kelly’s honor pays tribute to his legacy as a pioneer for diversity at the UW.

“He opened doors for hundreds of underrepresented and economically disadvantaged students here at the UW,” Edwards Lange said. “Dr. Kelly set the standard for, and established a commitment to diversity before it was popular among American colleges and universities.”

The Samuel E. Kelly Ethnic Cultural Center serves nearly 90 student organizations and has been known as a home away from home for students of color at the UW since its inception.

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For more information, contact Herrera at mherrer@uw.edu or 206-543-4635.