Friday, October 31, 2008

Seattle Times higher-education reporter

Bruce Lee, who attended the UW for 3 years but didn't graduate, died in '73 at age 32.

Bruce Lee admirers want to build an Eastern-style memorial garden at the University of Washington to commemorate their icon — but whether or not the UW will agree remains in doubt.

A group called The Bruce Lee Project at UW on Monday announced it wants to build a reflective garden in front of the Husky Union Building. The group plans to put the idea before UW Regents at their next meeting, Nov. 20.

At this point, the group's proposal lacks specifics — such as a design, timeline or cost analysis. But the group says it has built a network of hundreds of supporters, including the Bruce Lee family and local business owners.

However, the university has remained ambivalent to the idea of memorializing Lee, one of its most famous former students.

Lee, a martial-arts and movie icon, was born in San Francisco and grew up in Hong Kong. He attended the UW for three years but did not graduate. He died in 1973 at age 32.

"Somebody needs to make a compelling case as to why here and why now," said UW spokesman Norm Arkans. "Why here, as opposed to someplace else in the community?"

Jamil Suleman, a former UW student who last year taught a two-credit course at the UW through the Comparative History of Ideas Department called "CHID 496: Bruce Lee Dedication" argues that UW statues and monuments don't adequately represent contributions from minorities.

"He went to the UW for three years, he met his wife there, and he started teaching," Suleman said. "He kind of dropped out to become Bruce Lee."

Suleman said Lee had a big impact at the UW and in Seattle. He said the university has no problem recognizing other people who didn't graduate or even attend — not the least of whom include George Washington and Bill Gates.

A garden would reflect Lee's Eastern spiritual perspective, Suleman said. It would have an advantage over a statue because people could use the garden to contemplate and experience peacefulness rather than just viewing an object.

"What we are trying to do with this peace garden is have a space that anyone on campus can feel they belong in," he said.

Suleman said he believes the first step is to get the administration to agree to the idea before developing more details. He said he can't imagine the garden would be costly to construct or interfere much with campus life.But the UW may want to know more details first.

"We can't get a read until we see something and vet it," Arkans said. "We need to see what's involved and see what the impact would be to a treasured space."

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