Atkinson Building Dedication

Helen Atkinson and son Jimmy, and Mrs. Ben Atkinson at the dedication of the heating plant - May 1968. Photo: UAF Archives, Alumni Services Collection 83-107-144

Cashen's Corner by Prof. William R. Cashen Reprint from: The Alaska Alumnus, Summer 1968

It was a short ceremony - about fifteen minutes is all - but in its brevity and simplicity lay its impact. There were scores among the two hundred present who found lumps in their throats when Jimmy Atkinson, age 8, stepped to the microphone and said, "I'm very proud to be the son of such a great man."

The dedication of the Ben J. Atkinson Building, formerly known as the University of Alaska Heating Plant, was one of the highlights of the 1968 commencement calendar, and followed the Baccalaureate exercises at the Patty Building. In his remarks, Elmer Rasmuson, president of the Board of Regents said, "In attaching the name of Ben J. Atkinson to one of our university's buildings, we had a wide choice. But we selected the heating plant because it is the heart and nerve center for all the other buildings on campus." He also paid tribute to Ben's widow, Helen Atkinson, who served for eight years on the Board of Regents. "Both Ben and Helen were graduates of the University and both brought a dedication of purpose and higher service."

Ben's mother, Mrs. Ben J. Atkinson Sr., of Laporte, Indiana, travelled from her home to be present at the ceremony and preside with her daughter-in-law at the unveiling of the memorial plaque.

In his closing remarks President Wood said,"In Ben and his family are found the finest people anyone could hope to know. I remember the day we completed the new heating plant and were testing the coal tower. That was the day the Good Friday earthquake struck. Ben and I were in my office. We couldn't move. We watched the tower and the tower held. I think of all the things he planned and wrought in his lifetime, and I know they will stand the test - as the tower did - no matter what the test may be."
The plaque reads:

 This building dedicated to Ben J. Atkinson (1917-1966) University of Alaska, B.S. in C.E. 1947. First Director of Physical Plant and Campus Planning. For his dedicated service to the State of Alaska, its people and their University. May 19, 1968.

Ben Atkinson is also mentioned in these other articles:

Atkinson Building

Notable People: Ben Atkinson

UA Regent: Helen Atkinson