‘Seusscentennial’ celebrated

    University officials and Dr. Seuss fans of all ages gathered at Geisel Library on March 2 to celebrate Theodor Seuss Geisel’s 100th birthday. Referred to as the “Seusscentennial,” the gathering featured the presentation of a commemorative postage stamp by the U.S. Postal Service as well as the unveiling of a life-size bronze sculpture of Geisel.

    David Ung

    Acting Chancellor Marsha A. Chandler commenced the ceremony with acknowledgement of the birthday, and the legacy of Geisel.

    “Everyone knows March 2 is a special day at UCSD,” Chandler said. “But today is extra special. It is the occasion of what would have been his 100th birthday. This year marks the official ‘Seusscentennial.’”

    Following Chandler’s opening remarks, Dennis P. Smith, executive director of the San Diego Council on Literacy, spoke of the importance of literacy and thanked Geisel for his contribution to the cause.

    “There are millions of adults who never experienced the joy of reading ‘Cat in the Hat’ to their children,” Smith said. “In order for a free democratic society to exist, all its members need the necessary literacy skills to function.”

    According to Smith, approximately 23 percent of the adult population across the United States cannot read above the fourth-grade level, deeming them functionally illiterate. In San Diego County alone, he said, there are 450,000 adults who possess only minimal literacy skills.

    “We support and thank Dr. Seuss for creating a world of words and opening the doors to increase literacy in past, current and future generations,” Smith said.

    Following Smith’s remarks, Angelo Wider, manager of the U.S. Postal Service Finance Administration, spoke about the new stamp. A 10-by-8 foot replica of the stamp was presented to audience members shortly thereafter.

    “Today we are here to do far more than simply dedicate a postage stamp. We are also here to honor the very special man on that stamp, Theodor Seuss Geisel, who is better known to children of all ages as Dr. Seuss,” Wider said. “Geisel introduced countless children to the enjoyment of reading by reminding us that learning can not only be fun, but it can be funny.”

    Designed by Carl T. Herman of Carlsbad, the colorful stamp features Geisel surrounded by characters from his books. The U.S Post Office plans to issue a total of 172 million, 37-cent commemorative stamps.

    “The stamp helps us to gain a better appreciation and understanding of the world of fantasy, a necessary ingredient in living, as Theodor Seuss Geisel tried to remind us,” Wider said.

    Shortly before the unveiling of the bronze statue of Geisel, UCSD University Librarian Brian E.C. Schottlaender spoke on Geisel’s contributions to the university.

    “As striking and indeed iconic as this [library] is, I don’t think there is any question that Geisel’s greatest contribution to UCSD, to all of us, was the gift of his imagination and his advocacy of us using our own imaginations,” Schottlaender said. “The memorial will serve as a reminder to us that reading and learning are the keys to a better world.”

    The sculpture, designed by widow Audrey Geisel’s daughter, Lark Grey Dimond-Cates, features a life-size representation of Geisel sitting in his study chair with a 7-foot Cat in the Hat looking over his shoulder. Dimond-Cates said she employed the Cat in the Hat in her piece because “it depicts [Geisel’s] alter ego.”

    “He is in the exact position he was in all those times in the studio. Today, we’re all together; we’ve got the whole family, all the critters and all his works,” Audrey Geisel said. “Now I have a sense of completeness.”

    Recalling a walk through campus the couple took years ago, Geisel commented on her husband’s longtime attraction to the UCSD library.

    “I remember Theodor said, ‘If I had strayed into architecture, I might have done something that looks quite a lot like this,’” she said. “At that moment, he had no way of knowing that it was his library. At that time, Ted would not realize the importance of the building, but I knew.”

    She closed her remarks by expressing her happiness with the community’s display of warmth toward her husband and his work.

    “He had no realization how much a part of this university he would become,” Geisel said. “This makes me very happy. I’m very glad to be sharing it. This is the way it was meant to be.”

    The Preuss School choir commenced and completed the ceremony with vocal performances of the “Star-Spangled Banner” and “Happy Birthday.”

    Various exhibits of Geisel’s work are on display in Geisel Library throughout the year. “The Dr. Seuss You Never Knew,” featuring a collection of work from his school days at Dartmouth and Oxford, advertising and magazine works in the 1920s and 1930s, and World War II cartoons, will be on display until March 27.

    Theodor Geisel wrote over 44 children’s books that have been translated into more than 20 languages and have sold over 500 million copies. The Dr. Seuss Collection at UCSD’s Geisel Library contains most of Geisel’s original work and consists of roughly 8,500 items dating from his high school experiences in 1919 to his death in La Jolla in 1991.

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