ASU's West campus — which began as one student's project and grew into a formidable grassroots campaign — is thriving as it turns 30
Wind spatters Fletcher Library’s three-story picture window with rain, but inside hardly anyone notices.
The crowd grows inside the library — the first building to be completed on Arizona State University’s West campus — kicking off a monthlong 30th-anniversary celebration of the groundbreaking of the campus that would firmly establish the university’s presence in the West Valley. Among the throng on a rainy day in early February are West campus Vice Provost Marlene TrompMarlene Tromp also serves as a professor of English and women and gender studies, and dean of ASU’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences., campus architects Gerald McSheffrey and Jack DeBartolo, and the library’s namesake, Robert L. Fletcher.
The West campus began rather humbly, as a class project of Glendale Community College student Barbara Ridge, who called for the establishment of a West Valley ASU campus. Ridge was not alone in her vision, and soon, members of the community rallied behind her in support.
State Sen. Debbie McCune Davis was among them. She remembers the three-and-a-half years she spent driving back and forth between 54th Avenue and Camelback Road in Glendale and ASU’s Tempe campus to attend classes during the 1970s.
“Every single day, I said, ‘We need a campus in the West Valley.’ I mean, it was as clear as can be,” she recalled.
Also in agreement was state Rep. Lela Alston, who was familiar with the same long drive.
“We knew that this community on the west side, which was growing and thriving, deserved an opportunity to go to college and expand and give back to our community,” Alston said. “It was just such an obvious need, and all of us representatives from the west side were resolute about that being our number one priority.”
In 1972, Ridge and her supporters formed the Westside Citizens Committee for Higher Education to push the cause forward. Four years later, in 1976, after a furious letter-writing campaign that inundated House and Senate members with 2,000 handwritten pleas for support, a feasibility study was undertaken. After a year of deliberation, the study committee decided it was time to establish education facilities on the west side.
Both McCune Davis and Alston were present on April 18, 1984, when Gov. Bruce Babbitt signed Senate Bill 1245 officially establishing Arizona State University West. Architects Gerald McSheffrey and Jack DeBartolo were called upon to design the new campus, and two years later, in 1986, the groundbreaking took place at 47th Avenue and Thunderbird Road.
McSheffrey recalled the scene: “[It] was 300 acres of just desert.”