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Inflatable birthday cake for Dr. SeussCampus 'Seussified' in Honor of Famous Author's Birthday

By Ioana Patringenaru | March 6, 2006

A two-story giant inflatable birthday cake was spotted in front of the Geisel Library Thursday, along with a giant inflatable cat wearing a white and red striped hat. Later, employees donning similar hats played a toy piano and a harp. Students, faculty and staff hovered around and polished off 2000 slices of cake in just about half an hour.

These mysterious events actually had a simple explanation: UCSD’s campus came together last week to celebrate Dr. Seuss’ birthday. The author, whose real name is Theodor Seuss Geisel, would have been 102. His widow, Audrey Geisel, joined Chancellor Marye Anne Fox at noon to blow out a candle on a real birthday cake. Later that evening, the chancellor thanked Geisel for her generosity and her advice. Meanwhile, that morning, more cake and punch were on hand to feed students, faculty and staff who started lining up around 11:45 a.m. to join in the celebration.

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Chancellor Marye Anne Fox reads “One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish” by Dr. Seuss to children at Doyle Elementary School in San Diego as part of “Read Across America.” Schools across California take part in the literacy event every year to celebrate Dr. Seuss’ birthday.

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The goal of the celebration is to “seussify” the campus, said Lynda Claassen, curator of the Dr. Seuss collection and director of the Mandeville Special Collection Library. Students Tasha Mohney and Brandi Martinez seemed to embrace Claassen’s agenda. They were enjoying slices of chocolate with raspberry cake and vanilla with chocolate fudge cake in the shade of the Cat in the Hat inflatable statue.

“I think it’s the cutest thing ever,” said Mohney, a third-year psychology major.

Mohney said her favorite book is “Green Eggs and Ham.” Martinez said she likes “One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish” and always reads Dr. Seuss stories to her 5-year-old brother.

Later during the day, Chancellor Fox confided that her five sons and her four grandsons also learned from Dr. Seuss’ stories.

“Several generations have benefited from his wonderful contributions,” she said.

She spoke during an invitation-only reception at the La Jolla Playhouse. About 150 guests watched graduate students from UCSD’s theatre and dance department put on a production of “Horton Hears a Who.” The department is ranked third in the nation, the chancellor told the audience. In the story students acted out, Horton the elephant pledges to protect the Who, a microscopic people who live on a speck of dust. The book has been called a rhymed lesson in protecting minorities and their rights, said University Librarian Brian Schottlaender. “A person is a person, no matter how small” is a recurring sentence in the book.

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Students from UCSD’s theatre and dance department performed “Horton Hears a Who” last week during a celebration of Dr. Seuss’ birthday.

So, what does it take to be a Who, anyway? You need a lot of discipline, a good dose of idealism and cooperation, students said. You have to think small, said student Brandon Taylor. “You have to go to that Who place,” said student Molly Fite. Meanwhile, Dorian Baucum, who played Horton, was trying to get in touch with his inner elephant. “I’m still wondering if I found him,” he said.

Baucum and the others actually seemed to have reached their goal, and their audience, Thursday afternoon, when they jumped onto the stage. Performing without props or costumes, they used their bodies to portray parts of the landscape in the story, such as clovers, and characters, including the Whos, a kangaroo and her baby, an eagle and a bunch of fairly unpleasant monkeys.

The audience gave them a warm ovation. The actors had an unbelievable amount of imagination, said Millie Basden, a San Diego resident and attorney for Dr. Seuss Enterprises.

“In some ways, it was better than a Broadway show,” she said.

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