On Oct. 3, 1911, William Howard Taft became the first sitting president to visit the University of Denver's campus.

Now, 101 years later to the day, the campus will find itself in the presidential spotlight in a much more important fashion, hosting the first of three presidential debates in the 2012 election season.

DU was awarded the debate in November, giving it just less than 11 months to plan for the countless media outlets that will swarm the campus, not to mention all the security issues that surround a president and his opponent.

According to Kevin Carroll, vice chancellor and chief marketing officer for DU, the school is seizing this opportunity to let the nation know about the culture and high quality of education at DU.

"We're going to have thousands of media here and this is the story we're going to have to tell," Carroll said.

One thing the school did in advance of the debate is change the school logo and shield to one that the administration feels is a better representation of the school and the region, focusing on the signature buildings of the university with Mount Evans in the background.

Carroll said the new logo will also bring focus back to the school colors of crimson and gold, which have been the colors for many years but have not always been reflected. Carroll said the school had been exploring a new logo prior to being awarded the debate.

"It was coincidental that we got the bid halfway through search," he said.


However, much more work aside from a branding change and promotion of the university is required to pull of an event of this caliber.

The Commission on Presidential Debates will be transforming the Ritchie Center in the days leading up to the event, leaving the school with limited access. Magness Arena inside the center will be set up as the debate hall while the adjacent Hamilton Gym will serve as a filing center for the media.

The school is also hosting a Debate Event Series leading up to and through the event. The series included a re-enactment of a debate between founding fathers Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson last week, and a lecture from New York Times White House correspondent David Sanger. Today at 7 p.m. there will be a screening of a film on the Kennedy-Nixon debate with free admission.

The school also will hold Debate Fest the day of the event on the south-central section of campus, where 5,000 people are expected to turn out and celebrate the day with live music and watch a live cast of the debate among other activities.

"It encompasses virtually every department in the university," Carroll said.
Classes are canceled the day of the event, but many students are expected to be at Debate Fest and a few may get to attend the debate.

"You can't walk on this campus and not feel that something big is going on. I haven't come across a student who isn't excited," said Parker Calbert, vice president of undergraduate student government and co-chair of student steering team, which is setting up events to engage students prior to and up through the debate.

The cost to the university is estimated at $1.6 million initially, but Carroll thinks there will be additional costs. However, he said he had heard that the benefits to the school financially could be in the $20 million to $30 million range.

"It far exceeds whatever costs there are. It allows the university to fulfill its mission, which is to provide public good," he said.

Debate schedule
The presidential candidates will meet for three debates
 October 3: University of Denver, focusing on domestic policy
 October 16: Hempstead, N.Y., a town hall-style debate
 October 22: Boca Raton, Fla., focusing on foreing policy
Vice presidents: Incumbent Joe Biden and GOP running mate Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin will meet Oct. 11 in Danville Ky.