It’s nearly impossible to imagine the University of Arizona without Wilbur and Wilma Wildcat, “A” Mountain and the “Bear Down” rallying cry. If not for the 101 years of Greek life that have helped to shape the University and its traditions and symbols, the UA might be a different place altogether.
The new Geraldo Rivera Greek Heritage Park recognizes the contributions of 50,000 alumni from 90 Greek organizations and provides a dedicated venue for fraternity and sorority activities as well as outdoor space for everyone to enjoy.
What was once a plain stretch of lawn near First Street and Cherry Avenue now boasts two pavilions, two plazas and a stage. A colonnaded walkway welcomes and beckons visitors toward a timeline detailing key Greek moments, such as when John “Button” Salmon exhorted his teammates to “Bear Down.”
“It really is something that I find tremendous pride in honoring, in remembering and now in helping to perpetuate — that century-long tradition of Greek life at the UA — and I’m proud this lovely space will be open to all,” says Geraldo Rivera ’65, who made a $500,000 gift with his wife, Erica Rivera, to fund construction.
Their donation has imbued the space with meaning and purpose, says Christina Poletti, president of the Pi Beta Phi sorority. Poletti is eager to use the venue for events that bring her chapter together with other Greek organizations and to celebrate Pi Beta Phi’s founding at the UA.
“It is such a special experience for our chapter to be able to have this park be a part of our long-awaited centennial celebration,” she says.
A walkway arch bears Pi Beta Phi’s name in recognition of its donation symbolizing the future of UA Greek life. And the sorority is not alone. The names of numerous organizations and individuals who have supported the park’s lifetime maintenance and endowments for programs focusing on Greek students’ success appear on park pathways, trees and other spots.
Eric Baker ’84 ’89, who joined fraternity Pi Kappa Alpha in his first days at the UA, served as an adviser throughout the park’s planning. He and his partner William Kapfer ’87, who both live in New York City, look forward to their next campus trip to visit the park and the named bench acknowledging their donation to student programs.
“We wanted to give to something that reflected the legacy of our time at the UA. Knowing our contribution will help people prepare for their next phase in life feels good,” says Baker.