Amid a weekend filled with family reunions and happy moments, the Mount Holyoke community paused to celebrate the dedications of two special additions to the campus: the College's first new residence hall in more than 40 years and a new, state-of-the-art track and field facility. Both projects have been funded by the Campaign for Mount Holyoke, which has raised more than $165 million to date.
The 72,000 square-foot residence hall, which opened in September and is now home to 176 students, is MHC's third LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified building and was designed to be 45 percent more energy efficient than required under the state building code. The track and field, an outdoor synthetic turf field with lights, surrounded by an eight-lane track with a nine-lane straightaway, was opened last fall, allowing MHC to host NCAA-sanctioned events and the New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) competitions for the first time in a decade.
In a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday evening, president Joanne V. Creighton told a standing-room-only crowd the new residence hall is "the proud offspring of many parents who have nurtured and watched over it with loving care"- from the students, faculty and staff to the designers, architects and builders.
"We sweated over the design of the turret and the color of the bathroom tile, from the flow of the public rooms to light fixtures," she said. "You have no idea how many hours we spent and what loving attention we gave pouring over every detail of this building.
"And the result is magnificent: At once urban and rural, classic and 'with it,' the new residence hall sings harmoniously with other buildings and looks like it has been here all along," she added. "It's such a pleasure to see it teeming with students and activities…. This is a triumph worth celebrating."
In opening the dedication, Barbara McClearn Baumann '77 said the new residence hall is a "truly modern, truly environmental, cutting-edge dorm." Having incorporated such environmental features as solar panels, a high recyclable content, energy-monitoring systems, and rapidly renewable natural materials, Baumann said the building is likely to qualify for a silver LEED rating - "and we think we have a chance at gold status."
Director of residential life Rene Davis said building a new student residence allowed the College to "decompress" 27 rooms across campus and renovate Safford Hall, creating a direct benefit to 134 students, in addition to the 176 residents of the new dorm. Many of those students now live in suites- a first for MHC- and in "vertical clusters" that create a shared residential experience over two floors.
"However, our biggest success was the process…a three-year dialogue that turned into a conversation that moved us into action," said Davis. "This is not only a celebration of a new residence hall. It's a celebration of Mount Holyoke and how we work as a community…. You all have supported a great conversation."
Angelica Longe '09 said when she saw the plans for the new dormitory, she "immediately added living here to my 'bucket list.' " After watching the building go up "wall by wall," she now lives in a room "with the best view on campus"-also noting proudly that her student cluster is currently leading in the facility's energy conservation competition.
"I thank all of you who allowed my generation to make our mark," she said.
During the celebratory dinner for trustees, Alumnae Association directors, donors, and other special guests following the dedication ceremony, Leslie A. Miller '73, chairman of the Board of Trustees, praised Creighton for bringing in the project on time and on budget.
"This residence hall will be a reminder of and a monument to you and your leadership. We tip our hard hats to you," Miller said.
Dean of the College Penny Gill used the occasion to discuss the way the curricular and co-curricular are fused in MHC's educational model. The College strives to "make every experience inside and outside the classroom a moment of reflection," she said.
"This is precisely the moment-at a time of political change and turmoil-that we need people with the experience of studying in a diverse community… Never has our kind of education been more necessary."
On Saturday trustees and administrators gathered a second time to dedicate the College's new track and field facilties. Miller told the gathering the Board of Trustees knew it was "imperative for MHC to have top flight athletic facilities to complement its superior academic programs if it is to continue to attract the best students." That effort, she noted, is continuing in the construction of a new dance studio and exercise facilities.
Young alumnae trustee and former scholar-athlete Katie Kraschel '06 was among those who lobbied for the new track and field. During Saturday's ceremony, she said she felt as if she was "literally standing on what was once my soap box." Her mentor, athletic director Laurie Priest, called the project "a field of dreams," and quoted a line from the movie of the same name that she said fit it particularly well.
"If you build it, they will come," said Priest. Since the field's completion, participation in the annual Focus on Athletics recruitment event has doubled, she noted; NEWMAC conference administrators have moved the College to the top of its hosting schedule to give its athletes a chance "to run on a fast track so they have the very best possibility of qualifying for the NCAA National Championship." And the NCAA has just announced MHC has been selected as the host arena for the 2009 National Division III field hockey championships.
"A multimillion-dollar facility built solely for use by women would have been unfathomable to our grandmother's generation and, most likely, even to our mothers' generation," said Lisa Nash '09, chair of the Student Athlete Advisory Council. "Because of the support of our trustees, donors, and administration, Mount Holyoke College has elevated what is standard for women's athletics to a new level."
"All this would not be possible without generous donors who helped us to realize this dream, a board of trustees who quickly recognized the need and its importance, and the many people in Kendall and facilities management and across campus who helped to pull off such a stunning achievement," said Creighton.
Many students and visiting family members were on hand to help celebrate the ribbon cuttings. Elaine Cheung '09, a resident of Mead, took part in the early student surveys for the residence hall and signed a beam during its construction.
"This is really nice, and I've been reminded of all the effort that went into this, how it all came together," she said after observing the dedication.
Mary Drew of Greenfield, mother of Angelica Longe '09, said although she had seen the building during the construction process, she was seeing the finished product for the first time.
"I still haven't seen my daughter's room, but this is all beautiful," she said.