To hear Geraldo Rivera tell it, the open-road romance of the old TV show "Route 66" and his struggles with asthma were the principal reasons he headed west from New York to the University of Arizona.
Once he arrived, he didn't want to leave, thanks in part to the tight-knit fraternity he joined. And on Friday, surrounded by some of his fraternity brothers, memories of those good times came rushing back.
The noted TV journalist reunited with pals from Tau Delta Phi for the groundbreaking on Geraldo Rivera Greek Heritage Park, made possible by a donation of $500,000 from Rivera and his wife, Erica. The event was one of the highlights of the UA's Homecoming weekend, which has focused on 100 years of Greek Life on campus.
The park, to be constructed on a site near First Street and Cherry Avenue, is expected to be completed next summer. It will serve as a functional center in the heart of the Greek Village for chapter and community events, fund development and donor recognition. The space will honor more than 50,000 UA Greek alumni and the 90 organizations that have been a part of the UA Greek community since 1915.
"The best thing Greek organizations do, in addition to their brotherhood and sisterhood, is the philanthropic and the patriotic," Rivera told a crowd gathered at the site. "Here is a park for the entire University community and Tucson, for people to relax and to bond.... We hope this is a place where the community can come, in good times and bad, to support one another."
Rivera, 72, a member of the Class of 1965 who graduated with a degree in business administration and played on the UA lacrosse team, is a 2015 recipient of the Order of Omega Greek Hall of Fame Award. An avid philanthropist, he has raised funds to aid various causes, including education and the care and treatment of those with autism. He was accompanied by his wife and their daughter, Sol.
UA President Ann Weaver Hart, Senior Vice President Melissa Vito, Assistant Dean of Students Johanne Ives and other UA officials participated in the groundbreaking.
"This beautiful place recognizes the importance of community to the University," Hart said of the park's site.
Geraldo Rivera Greek Heritage Park is part of an overall Greek Centennial Campaign to celebrate extraordinary student experiences and engage alumni in Greek Life. For more information, go to uagreek100.com.