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  UW Center in Leon
  The UW Center in León

A Royal Dedication for UW's New Center in León

What do UW students do when they learn they’ll be meeting royalty? They buy suits.

On May 4, Spain’s King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofiá visited the Spanish city of León to celebrate the city’s 1,100th anniversary. While in town, they also participated in the dedication of a new UW center housed there. Joining them were a group of UW leaders and supporters—and more than a dozen UW students studying in León through a UW Spanish and Portuguese Studies program.

“It was wonderful to share that moment with our students,” says Ana Mari Cauce, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, who was on hand for the event. “The King and Queen took time out from the ceremony to speak to them. We had all been schooled on the protocol for addressing royalty, but the King and Queen almost immediately said, ‘Forget the protocol. Let’s just talk.’”

The royal visit was particularly fitting given that the building in which the UW center is located (along with the León Mayor’s Office) is a 14th century palace that once housed royalty.

Ana Mari Cauce chatting with the King and Queen of Spain.  
Dean Ana Mari Cauce (center) chats with Spain’s King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofiá (in foreground) during the dedication event.  

Cauce and Anthony Geist, chair of Spanish and Portuguese Studies, have been involved in planning the new center for about five years, but this was their first opportunity to see the fully renovated building. “The palace is almost unimaginably beautiful,” says Cauce. “It was built on the remains of an old Roman wall, and what makes it really special is how it respects the history of the site. There’s a corner of the building left open so you can see the wall. Yet it’s also thoroughly modern, wired for technology.”

Much like the UW’s Rome Center, which has served as home base for study abroad programs in everything from architecture to astronomy, the center in León will be available for use by departments and units across the University. The City of León has welcomed the partnership, signing a 10-year agreement that provides the UW with rent-free use of the 9,000 square-foot facility.

That same welcoming attitude was evident during the royal visit. “There was something very moving about being 6,000 miles from home and having the name ‘University of Washington’ easily roll off the lips of the King of Spain and hearing him talk about this partnership being important to his country and his citizens,” says Cauce. “It was an auspicious beginning for our new center.”

Return to Table of Contents, July 2010 issue


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