By Iris Ruvalcaba
It costs $5,000 to get a plaque of your choice on a bench at the heart of the UCI campus. This fact is just one of many comprising the little-known story of the 15 benches sprinkled across Aldrich Park, the 19-acre lawn contained by Ring Road.
1.They’re Not Just for the Lifeless
If you’ve ever taken the time to read some of the plaques on the benches, you may have noticed that while some are dedicated to people who have passed away, others honor people who are, in fact, still alive. Some honoraria plaques honor people such as professors or staff members who have had some type of influence or served some time at UCI. Memorial plaques usually commemorate people such as Michael Robert Belko, who served as an ASUCI at-large Representative, John Rosendahl, who “made physics an adventure for students of all ages” and Syed Kabeer Bahadur, who was lauded on the plaque as the “Dopest Fool” the buyer of the plaque had ever seen.
- The Process Is Not Too Difficult (Or Cheap, Either)
Acquiring plaques on a bench only requires a couple of steps. UCI’s Donor Relations Office Manager Nancy Locke, the person in charge of the bench program, said the first step in acquiring one of these benches is to fill out a pledge form and give $5,000 to make it happen. Locke said this cost has been the same for quite some time, but could increase in the future. Once the money is all set, the buyer(s) — along with Locke and the UCI Planning Committee — will walk along Aldrich Park to determine what locations are available to place a bench. Location availability all depends on safety requirements and could require altering environmental elements as a precaution. Once a safe location is determined, the plaque and bench are made to order and are soon installed.
- Specially Designed for Your Back And Low-Maintenance
These benches are not only custom-made with varying messages on the plaques, they are also specially-designed by an orthopedic doctor. That’s right — this program actually invests in making sure the benches are helping sitters’ postures. The benches in the park are also special because they’re made of plastic, whereas those in other parts of UCI are made from wood. This is purposely done to minimize the maintenance required from possible weathering issues.
4.Different Plaque Sizes Explained
If you have a keen eye for detail, you may have noticed that most of the plaques vary in size. This is because the program used to give buyers free range as to how big they wanted their plaques. That was allowed until too many metal clamps were needed on the back of the benches to carry the weight of the plaques, which wasn’t aesthetically pleasing at all. Around 2003, the Architecture Committee at UCI came together and decided it was time to create a standard plaque size (four-by-six inches). This means the older plaques are the bigger ones and the newer ones are uniform and smaller in size. However, some can still be widened to fit extra wording.
- How Many Are There?
UCI has 50 plaque-bearing benches, with Aldrich Park housing 15 of those benches. The other 35 are scattered all around the university. If you want to keep track of them all, you can just look out for a number labeled on one of the bench’s legs.
- Bench Facing China
The weirdest bench-related request made to UCI was that it had to face China, according to Locke. She said mapping the position out made it difficult, but that thankfully, China is a large country, so it was easy to accommodate this requirement. This request was made so long ago that Locke would have to search many files in order to pinpoint the China-facing bench — but perhaps an enterprising student can figure it out.
Bonus Fact: Nesting Aldrich
On top of the 15 plaques within the large garden that we call Aldrich Park, there is an additional plaque located in the center of it all. This plaque is dedicated to the founding chancellor himself, Daniel G. Aldrich, and is mounted within a smaller garden called the Aldrich Rock Garden. That’s right — UCI is essentially a nest of gardens centered around the original Aldrich himself.