Reflections on Landini: University rededicates building in honor of its eighth president

April 20, 2012

Hundreds of Indiana State University students, staff and faculty spent a cloudy, but mild, spring day Friday planting trees and flowers and picking up trash and debris to keep the campus looking its best.

It was Donaghy Day, a day set aside by former university President Richard G. Landini in honor of a student and faculty member from the early 1900s.

It is a day the university now observes twice each year. During the spring 2012 observance, university leaders paused to honor Landini, ISU's eighth president, by rededicating a campus building in his memory.

"It is no coincidence that the rededication and naming of the Richard G. Landini Center for Performing and Fine Arts is taking place on this day," said Dan Bradley, Indiana State's 11th and current president. "It is my understanding that Donaghy Day, created by President Landini in 1976 as a celebration of spring, was his favorite day of the year."

Bradley said the day devoted to campus and downtown beautification was an appropriate symbol of one of Landini's greatest accomplishments: development and implementation of a campus master plan that "went well beyond the usual bricks and mortar projects. It transformed an urban, concrete-laden campus into a pedestrian friendly, park-like environment."

That 1986 plan included construction in 1996 of the building, formerly simply known as the Center for Performing and Fine Arts, that now bears Landini's name and features a recital hall with renowned acoustics and soundproof rehearsal rooms for music students and faculty and the university's main art gallery as well as offices and classrooms for the music department.

But the transition Indiana State saw as a result of Landini's 17-year tenure "extended beyond the physical to encompass the cerebral," Bradley said, pointing to new graduate programs and a revised general education program. "It is my honor on this Donaghy Day to help pay tribute to the eighth president of Indiana State University, Richard G. Landini. As we honor his memory, may we embrace his vision as defined by the quote he loved to use, ‘A university is always in the state of becoming.'"

Students, faculty and staff from the Landini era took turns at the podium in the recital hall to share reflections of an English professor-turned chief administrator remembered for his distinctive baritone and for being a cheerleader for the university as well as its president.

"Almost everyone in this room has memories of him because, above all, he was a memorable guy," said Sheron Dailey, professor emerita of communication.

Upon Landini's arrival to campus, Dailey recalled, cement trucks regularly rumbled across the heart of campus from a plant at 13th and Chestnut streets.

"Indiana State was far from a quiet and serene enclave of erudition. President Landini began the process that changed all that," she said, noting his habit of picking up trash as he walked across campus and putting in his pocket until it could be disposed of properly. "If the campus could not be immediately beautiful, it could be immaculately clean and he would do his part."

Dailey also reflected on Landini's extensive vocabulary, recalling how his use of the word "meiosis" once sent her to the dictionary - only she had no idea how to spell the word - and his time spent on the bucket brigade when the old women's physical education building caught fire.

Mike Alley, president of the university board of a trustees and a student leader when Landini became president, said he "brought great pride to our campus and our community."

Recalling Landini's vocal cheerleading at sporting events, Alley described him as "the strongest tree supporting our fighting Sycamores."

Ed Pease, an attorney who served in various capacities, including university counsel, before leaving to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives, told how Landini's frequent admonishments to express himself in fewer words helped him improve his writing.

"As he did with me, he did with everyone at this university - faculty, staff and students - he made us better," said Pease, now a member of the ISU Board of Trustees.

Robert Cowden, retired chair of the music department, told how Landini, "with his wonderful stentorian voice" was a natural choice to narrate a performance of "Lincoln Portrait" when composer Aaron Copland conducted his work at ISU in 1978. During the only rehearsal for the performance, Copland stopped the University Orchestra on two occasions to admonish Landini that his voice was too loud and boisterous.

When the script later called for Landini to say, "Abe Lincoln was a quiet and melancholy man," Copland again stopped the orchestra. Only this time, he said, "Mr. Landini, that was perfect," and Landini beamed.

Barbara Landini, who still works at the university where her late husband was president from 1975 to 1992, said she is pleased that a campus building that was envisioned in the master plan he championed now bears his name.

"Dick truly loved Indiana State University and was very proud to serve as its president and member of the English department faculty," she said. "I think this is a fitting tribute to him for his many years of dedicated service to the university that he loved and I think he would be pleased."

Matt Landini, said he hopes the university will also remember his mother, President Landini's first wife, Phyllis, who died just months before his dad left the ISU presidency.

"She was a behind the scenes force in his success at Indiana State," Matt Landini said. "She was the spark to help him be all he could be. I view this dedication as being in their joint memory."

Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/photos/i-qKf3kp6/0/O/i-qKf3kp6.jpg - Sheron Daily, professor emerita of communication at Indiana State University, was among the speakers at the dedication of the Richard G. Landini Center for Performing and Fine Arts, named in honor of ISU's eighth president. (ISU/Tony Campbell)

Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/photos/i-gqh6Bh3/0/O/i-gqh6Bh3.jpg - Former Indiana State University President Richard G. Landini's wife, Barbara (left) and sons Vince and Matt unveil a plaque rededicating the university's Center for Performing and Fine Arts in Landini's honor. (ISU/Tony Campbell)

Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/photos/i-5f9Bjb3/0/O/i-5f9Bjb3.jpg - Indiana State University's Center for Performing and Fine Arts now bears the name of Richard G. Landini, the university's eighth president, following a rededication ceremony April 20, 2012. (ISU/Tony Campbell)

Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/photos/i-h4M4sB9/0/O/i-h4M4sB9.jpg - Richard G. Landini

Media contact and writer: Dave Taylor, media relations director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3743 or dave.taylor@indstate.edu