Bye, Bye, Bubbler

Some things are just too good to last. Such was the case with the Bob and Betty Beyster Bubbler, a hot tub that mysteriously appeared on a fourth-floor balcony at the North Campus of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and then disappeared just as mysteriously two days later.

In recognition of a $15-million gift to the College of Engineering by J. Robert Beyster, founder of the research-and-engineering company SAIC, Michigan regents agreed on February 16 to rename the Computer Science and Engineering Building for him and his wife. “Some people thought it would be amusing if they also installed a hot tub to the glory of the students,” said a software-systems graduate student who asked to be identified only as “ZTM.” The following Saturday, an unnamed group placed the tub and a plaque (pictured) on the balcony after obtaining none of the proper permissions.

(Photos courtesy of ZTM)

“At its peak, we fit eight people in it, including two professors,” said ZTM, adding that the soakers—all of whom wore proper bathing apparel—took turns giving readings from textbooks. Reached at an alumni event in Florida, David C. Munson Jr., dean of engineering, said he got an e-mail from a group calling itself “S4: Students for Sustaining Suds and Soaking,” assuring him that engineers had calculated the weight of the tub filled with water and bodies before placing it on the balcony.

Nonetheless, liability and other concerns were raised, and the tub had to go. “The Beyster Bubbler disappeared … into a waiting U-Haul,” said ZTM. Some donors might not appreciate such hijinks, so John Balbach, a Michigan development officer, sent the Beysters a cautious note describing what had happened. Their initial response was “a good chuckle,” Mr. Balbach learned from a representative of the couple. “The Beysters were pleased that the new name of the building was being embraced so creatively by the students.” Now they want to see pictures.

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