CHICAGO (STMW) – Five days before supplanting his father as Chicago’s longest-serving mayor, Richard M. Daley on Tuesday accepted a moving and enduring tribute from his college and law school alma mater.

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DePaul University named it 18-story academic center at 14 E. Jackson—a renovated, nearly century-old building that once housed Lytton’s Department store—the Richard M. and Maggie C. Daley Building to honor the couple’s “passion and commitment” to education, urban revitalization and the arts.

“Wow. This is really a very special honor for me in my life and I am very, very grateful,” said Maggie Daley, who used a walker after a string of recent setbacks in her eight-year battle against breast cancer.

“My wish for the Richard M. and Maggie C. Daley building is that it will always open the doors of opportunity for students, cultivate positive self-esteem and transform how our young people think about themselves and their potential,” added Maggie Daley, who championed the award-winning arts and education program that evolved into After School Matters.

Mayor Daley called DePaul “a special place for me because of the history of my father here” and other family members who graduated from DePaul.

He praised the university for its commitment to public service and its decision to stay in Chicago during the 1950s and 1960s, when other big-city universities “looked the other way” and moved to the suburbs.

“You made a commitment in Lincoln Park. You made a commitment downtown…You need foundations and anchors in the city. And they have been the foundation and the catalyst for change in Lincoln Park and downtown. I thank you for that,” the mayor said.

The Daley Center and Daley College are named after Richard J. Daley. Maggie Daley’s name adorns the Center for Women’s Cancer Care at Prentice Women’s Hospital. But the DePaul honor is a structural first for Richard M. Daley. It’s almost certain to be the first of many.

“There’s an African proverb that says the best time to plant a tree is 50 years ago. The second-best time to plant a tree is now. DePaul pauses to honor Richard M. and Maggie C. Daley because they have planted many, many trees,” said Monsignor Ken Velo, DePaul’s senior executive for Catholic Collaboration.

“Maggie through her work at Gallery 37, at Pathways, at After School Matters, through her efforts in the city and through the warmest smile Chicago knows. And Richard M. Daley for his tremendous leadership, for making this city world-class, for his passion, his love of family and Chicago.”

Rev. Dennis Holtschneider, the university’s president, said it’s fitting that the building stands on State Street, which was in “significant decline” when Daley took office. The “remarkable comeback” that the South Loop has made since then is a tribute Daley’s vision for Loop University, the nickname for a downtown Chicago area that 65,000 college students call home, Holtschneider said.

“Both the mayor and Mrs. Daley have had a life-long love for Chicago. They’ve given the full measure of their energies to its people. We’re proud to mark their faithful service with this sign of respect and gratitude,” Holtschneider said.

Tuesday’s moving ceremony was attended by members of the Daley family. They included the mayor’s son Patrick, his daughter, Nora, son-in-law Sean Conroy and brothers Michael, John and Bill.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2010. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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