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Posted on Wed, Nov 7, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

New names: Ann Arbor school board to vote on Pioneer High School planetarium, tennis courts

By Danielle Arndt

The Ann Arbor Board of Education will vote Wednesday night on two new names for two separate facilities at Pioneer High School.

The board is expected to approve naming the high school tennis courts after longtime coach Tom “Brick” Pullen and renaming the current Argus Planetarium to “The Argus IMRA Planetarium.”

The planetarium name change comes after IMRA, a global company specializing in ultrafast fiber laser technology, donated $100,000 to the district for critical upgrades to the computer system that operates the planetarium programs and the cove lighting that surrounds the planetarium dome.

The donation also would pay for new signs and about 15 additional seats.


Director of Communications Liz Margolis shows off a binder of support letters Oct. 24 from tennis players and families in favor of naming Pioneer High School's tennis courts after coach Tom "Brick" Pullen.

Danielle Arndt |

District spokeswoman Liz Margolis said at the school board’s Oct. 24 meeting, without this donation, the district would risk having to shut down the planetarium.

The Pioneer planetarium is the oldest continually operating planetarium at any school or college in the western hemisphere. But the planetarium’s equipment has been failing regularly for about the past year.

More than 3,000 Ann Arbor students in grades 3, 6 and 10-12 are said to visit the planetarium annually.

Since the IMRA donation was announced at the Oct. 17 Ann Arbor Public Schools Educational Foundation’s Harvest Dinner, the planetarium’s projector also broke down.

“It was a totally unanticipated failure of the system,” Margolis said.

The $100,000 donation depends on the board passing the co-naming of the planetarium, Margolis said. All board members expressed their eagerness to restore the planetarium and their gratitude to IMRA during the first reading of the resolution on Oct. 24. A formal vote will be taken at Wednesday’s regular meeting.

Also on Oct. 24 was the first reading of a resolution to name the Pioneer tennis courts after Pullen, a 23-year coach who has lead the boys and girls’ tennis teams to 15 team state championships.

More than 100 singles players and doubles teams have won state titles during that span as well.

Margolis appeared at the Oct. 24 board meeting with a binder filled with letters of support and recommendations in Pullen’s favor from 173 former and current boys and girls tennis players and their families.

She called the love for Pullen in the community “impressive” and “pretty remarkable,” saying Pioneer has named athletic facilities after coaches in the past but has never seen quite this level of support.

Margolis said the district looks for the naming-rights nominee to have contributed to the personal growth of his or her student athletes — “It’s not just about building a winning program.”

She said it was “pretty phenomenal” to read the notes and letters the tennis community submitted explaining why Pullen is deserving of this honor.

The letters cited the thousands of hours Pullen also has spent volunteering to teach the sport to younger children and underprivileged youth.

“This is very typical of the kind of dedication we see from our coaches and from our teaching staff in Ann Arbor, and it's exciting when we have the opportunity to honor someone so committed to developing our young men and women,” school board President Deb Mexicotte said Oct. 24. “I look to forward to … when we can move forward and take action on this item.”

View the complete agenda for Wednesday’s regular Board of Education meeting here.

Danielle Arndt covers K-12 education for Follow her on Twitter @DanielleArndt or email her at


A Voice of Reason

Wed, Nov 7, 2012 : 12:51 p.m.

I agree--we should not be naming buildings after people. Not that these people are not great but there have been great tennis coaches before Tom Pullen and there will be great tennis coaches after Tom Pullen. Who's hair-brain idea is this? Name these buildings after the TAX PAYERS.

A Voice of Reason

Wed, Nov 7, 2012 : 3:22 p.m.



Wed, Nov 7, 2012 : 12:10 p.m.

How about naming the tennis courts THE TAXPAYERS SINKHOLE.