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'A' mountain painted blue to recognize healthcare workers responding to COVID-19

The project was a collaboration between ASU and the city of Tempe

20200418 A Mountain 0001

The blue A on "A" mountain is pictured on Saturday, April 18, 2020, in Tempe. The A was painted blue in recognition of healthcare workers on the front lines of the response to the coronavirus outbreak.

“A” mountain received a fresh coat of paint Thursday, but instead of its usual gold, the iconic landmark is now blue.

To recognize the efforts of responders to COVID-19, representatives from the ASU Alumni Association, ASU Foundation, city of Tempe and Tempe Fire Medical Rescue Department put on masks and gathered at "A" mountain to paint it blue.

Douglas Owczarczak, director of student relations at ASU Alumni Association, said he had the idea to paint the “A” a few nights before it happened and planned on starting the project the following week. 

That same day, Gov. Doug Ducey announced his “Light AZ Blue” initiative. From there, it was all hands on deck to get the necessary approvals and paint the “A” the next day.

“The support was just overwhelming,” Owczarczak said. “They immediately responded first thing in the morning saying, ‘Let's do this.’”

Painting the “A” colors other than gold and white isn’t unheard of. In the past, the “A” was occasionally painted to support charities, but the University has focused on keeping it only gold or white for the past five years or so.

With the abnormality of the color change in mind, Owczarczak wanted to be strategic about the shade of blue used.

He said he researched the most popular color for scrubs in the healthcare industry and used an app on his phone to find that color of paint.

“The COVID-19 epidemic has been something that has impacted every single person in the ASU community, every person in Tempe, Arizona and globally,” Owczarczak said. 

“We thought that this would be the perfect gesture to show our support and really unite a community around this.”

Tempe Fire Medical Rescue Chief Greg Ruiz was one of the people involved in painting the “A” blue. He said he volunteered to participate because of who it was honoring and what it meant to him.

“I thought it was a great way for not only the department to collaborate with ASU, but it was a great way for me to say thank you to the men and women who are protecting and serving in so many different capacities,” Ruiz said. 

Owczarczak said it is unclear for now when the “A” will go back to its traditional gold hue, but once life starts moving back to normal, ASU and the city of Tempe will reassess the color and decide when to paint it gold again.

“We want to keep that gesture and make sure that folks understand that ASU and the city of Tempe are here for them, and we're uniting for them, and we appreciate everything that they do,” Owczarczak said.

William Simmons is a sophomore studying marketing and works for the Alumni Association as a programs assistant. He said the "A" is a "symbol of Sun Devil pride.

"While these first responders are taking care of us, really the least we can do is honor them," Simmons said. "That's the message we want to send and hope that it's bringing some smiles to some people in Tempe and Arizona at large."

To Brooke LaVelle, an ASU alumna currently working as a nurse, the “A”'s new hue is a supportive gesture in a time of isolation and change.

Because they work in a healthcare facility, LaVelle and her colleagues must take extra precautions against contracting and spreading COVID-19. For some of her coworkers, this means self-isolating from their partners and children.

“I think just having those reminders on our commute to work or commute home from work if we see the “A” blue or see the State Farm buildings blue or see the horse at Westworld blue (is) just kind of another reminder that there is someone out there thinking about us and that we're not alone in this," LaVelle said. 

"We're all as a community, as a state, as a country, as the world, in this together.”

Reach the reporter at and on Twitter @GretaForslund.

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