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Birth of a Phoenix

Four years ago, The Gargoyle, the University of Chicago yearbook, turned to stone because of financial difficulties and lack of student interest, forcing the classes of ’95, ’96, and ’97 to graduate without a yearbook to call their own. But this year, The Phoenix rose to take The Gargoyle’s place.

The brainchild of executive directors Wendy Chi, AB’98; Christopher Kang, AB’98; and Jennifer Wu, SB’98, the 186-page Phoenix includes opening, closing, and advertising segments, plus sections on student activities, Greek life, housing, fourth-years, and athletics. Scheduled to print in mid-October, 550 copies of the yearbook will be shipped to the students, parents, and administrators who pre-ordered, while an additional 75 copies will be available for $50 each at the U of C Bookstore.

As late as last fall, The Phoenix was little more than a spark in the minds of the executive directors, none of whom had yearbook experience.

Explains Kang: “Wendy and I had talked on and off during our first three years about how nice it would be to have a yearbook—something to chronicle our college days and create a stronger bond between students and alumni and the University.”

Chi, the Student Government’s vice president for student affairs, worked to gauge student interest in a yearbook. After a favorable response at last fall’s student activities night, she, Kang, and Wu developed a business plan. Then they set out to determine administrative interest. Support, Kang says, was “overwhelming.”

After forming a recognized student organization for The Phoenix, the executive directors took applications and interviewed for key staff positions, hiring Heidi Eichler, ’01, as editor in chief, and Shannon Ceci, AB’98, as business manager. The editorial staff numbered 22, while the entire yearbook staff included 60-plus students.

More than $30,000 in funding came from advance sales, advertisements, and dedications purchased by parents of graduating fourth-years. In addition, Student Government gave the yearbook almost $5,000 for operating and publishing expenses, while another $2,400 for a computer came from the Committee on Recognized Student Organizations. The Dean’s Initiative Fund came through with about $1,800 for a camera.

Kang doesn’t expect the yearbook to be in the black this year, but hopes that will come with time. “It was far more work than any of us could have ever imagined,” he says. “It has been rewarding just to look back and to see the great strides we made in laying the foundation for a successful yearbook. In many ways, it was not unlike starting a new business.”—K.S.

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