Shamrock refurbishment project repairs long standing home of MU tradition

The work on the Engineering Shamrock Plaza looks to repair the concrete around the shamrock and add two new benches.
A gate blocks off the Engineering Courtyard as it is currently undergoing construction. The refurbishment of the Engineering Shamrock is expected to be completed by March of 2020, in time for MU Engineering Week. Photo by Assistant Photo Editor Andrew Moore

The College of Engineering stone shamrock will soon be displayed in a revitalized Engineering Shamrock Plaza, with an estimated completion and dedication deadline of Engineers’ Week 2020 in March. But for now the shamrock is relocated to Steve Borgelt’s backyard.

Borgelt, who is a chancellor’s professor in the Department of Biomedical, Biological and Chemical Engineering, is spearheading the three phase shamrock refurbishment project.

Demolition began on Oct. 19 in the Engineering Shamrock Plaza located between Lafferre and Switzler halls. This involved taking out the gardens in the plaza and using a device to remove all of the concrete in order to extract the 98-year-old shamrock in one piece, which was then moved to Borgelt’s residency.

The first phase involves putting a concrete pan underneath to make the paver stable, cutting it in an angle pattern and adding two new tribute benches on the opposite sides. The second phase involves similar paver work on the area to the west as well as repairing the plaques of veteran memorials in that area. The third phase focuses on work to the east of the Engineering Shamrock Plaza.

In an email, Whitney Harlan, director of advancement of the College of Engineering, said the phase one project will be under construction through the winter.

Initially Borgelt just wanted to revitalize the shamrock itself by replacing the ceramic tiles and repairing the cracked clover surrounding the monument.

“First I was hoping we could just revitalize what's there,” Borgelt said. “[We] haven't been able to find anybody that would redo those ceramic tiles that were there ... It wasn't very uniform in color, or even the blocks, the shape of the squares, some of them were squares and some of them were rectangles.”

After this, the plan of the project began to evolve.

“Next I thought to replace the shamrock and the concrete around it, because of the non-uniform age and shapes of the surrounding concrete patio,” Borgelt said. “Finally I decided that commissioning a landscape architect to develop a design that was classical and updated was better, so the process has taken longer than I had imagined”

Borgelt has raised over $35,000 for the first phase of the project with 51 donors, including himself. In addition to serving as a chancellor’s professor, Borgelt is involved with the St. Pat’s Board and the Engineering Student Council. At meetings for both organizations, Borgelt discussed the project and announced his lead donation and that he would match their donations. He began accepting donations for the project during Giving Day last year on March 14.

“I want to keep trying to show them what we're going to do and [how that] has kind of evolved through time, so they could see why it's taken a little longer,” Borgelt said. “It's exciting to have that much money raised, but it's [also] exciting to me to have that many people interested in donating.”

Faculty, staff and advisers were instructed by Borgelt to send out emails to engineering students to inform them that the stone shamrock was going to be temporarily removed. The email told students there would be several days that week with nice weather if they wanted to take pictures with the monument.

“The day before they ripped it out I went out and took a picture,” mechanical engineering junior Julia Ensor said. “Then the next day, I walked out and was like, ‘oh, there's a hole here now.’ I'm excited to see what it's going to be like, but it's kind of weird not having it right now.”

Forty out of the 51 donors of the first phase were first-time donors, either current engineering students or recent alumni. While the phase one budget has been secured, Borgelt hopes that future donations will help secure funding for the next two phases.

“Engineering students, as they graduate, they're the ones that are making great changes for our world,” Borgelt said. “I want them to remember what makes us unique, [our] traditions here on campus. It's been very rewarding to me to work with the student leadership to do that to remember where we came from as we build the future.”

Edited by Laura Evans | levans@themaneater.com

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