A door to the hilltop
Former Bradley basketball star DANIEL RUFFIN '08 now has a permanent home — on a door at a pizza restaurant in Lee's Summit, Missouri. The lifelike and nearly life-size depiction of Ruffin is part of a Bradley-themed collage made by LORI LUTHY '95 MFA '01, creative director for Bradley admissions, and Tom Gunter, director of graphic design in the University Communications department.
PATRICK CUEZZE '96 and Dr. JOY STEINKAMP CUEZZE '97 wanted the decorations in their restaurant, Next Door Pizza and Pub, to match its name. "We want it to be our neighbors' second dining room, and it's literally right next door to some of them, so we went with the whole door theme to decorate the restaurant," Joy said.
The nearly 30 decorated doors in the restaurant are hung on walls and ceilings or are used as room dividers. Most were created by Next Door Pizza and Pub customers, but the Cuezzes knew there was one that had to be specially made in Peoria.
"Being so close to Kansas City, we have a KU door and an MU door. But when people ask us whether we are KU or MU fans, we say we are Bradley fans. So we had to have a Bradley door," Joy said.
When she called the Hilltop, Joy was directed to Luthy, and she agreed to lead the project. She and Gunter spent about 100 hours in her art studio, cutting up pages of Bradley publications and gluing the tiny pieces onto a door Luthy was given from the old Elmwood Grade School building.
Rather than painting a simple red and white design, Luthy and Gunter wanted to capture a moment in history. The photo of Ruffin that they used as a reference for the collage was taken during the second round of the 2006 NCAA tournament when the Braves defeated Pittsburgh.
Luthy and Gunter drove the finished door to Lee's Summit in April. "It turned out awesome," Luthy said. "We are very happy with it."
The Cuezzes opened Next Door Pizza and Pub in February 2009. Joy still works full time as a geriatrician, but Patrick, formerly an attorney, was tired of sitting behind a desk all day, his wife said. "People ask him why he would put his law practice on hold to open a pizza joint and he likes to say, 'How many jokes do you know about pizza joint operators?'"
The Cuezzes encourage Bradley alumni and fans to stop by and see the door.
"It's amazing," Joy said. "It takes my breath away."