Clark University broke ground on its much-anticipated Alumni and Student Engagement Center on May 15, the cusp of Reunion and Commencement weekend.
"If you're going to be a good steward of your neighborhood, you have to take care of your front yard," Clark University President David Angel told city leaders, community partners, and Clark alumni and staff who gathered beneath a tent on the Main Street construction site, across from the front gates.
President Angel noted that the center was the culmination of a 20-year dream for many alumni as well as longtime faculty and staff, and reflects the strong partnership between the University and the local community. He said he often wondered if a gateway to the Main South section of the city could be created to "make a statement about how proud we are of our partnership, how proud we are collectively of our neighborhood, and our community."
"It took a lot of hard work, a lot of trust, a lot of belief, to bring us to where we are today."
— David Angel
Clark Trustee Elyse Darefsky '79 recalled that about 15 years ago the Clark Alumni Association presented the Board of Trustees with a five-year strategic plan that addressed the lack of campus space for alumni planning and events. Leading the charge, she said, was Larry Hershoff '71, who advocated relentlessly for a new building.
"To have such a prominent building on campus bearing our collective name — alumni — should be viewed as a profound statement of just how much the University does value us," Darefsky said.
City Councilor Sarai Rivera, the mother of two Clark students and wife of a Clark alumnus, said that the building construction represents "movement and growth" in the neighborhood. "Clark is investing because it believes in this community," she said, citing Clark's University Park Partnership, which gives neighborhood children an opportunity to use Clark facilities and attend the University.
Ellen Watts, principal and co-founder of Architerra, the firm that designed the 35,000-square-foot Alumni and Student Engagement Center, described the construction project as "a bold leap across Main Street."
"It's hoped every Clarkie, and prospective Clarkie, will have reason to enjoy this building," she said, noting that it will contain the LEEP Center, classrooms, administrative offices, the campus store, and flexible event space. With an array of solar panels on the roof, the building will produce half of its own annual energy needs, Watts added.
"Our partnership with Clark is much more than concrete and steel," said Anthony Consigli, president of Consigli Construction. "It is a reflection of our belief in making a difference in the neighborhood in which we live, learn, work and play."
Just before breaking for group photos with hard hats and shovels, President Angel told the audience that Clark's vision is for the Center to be a place where students will connect with alumni mentors, faculty advisers and organization partners to prepare for lives and careers beyond college. "This building will be the engine for those relationships," he said.