Section: News

Kenyon receives largest gift in its history

Kenyon receives largest gift in its history

Courtesy of the Office of Communications

The College received a $75 million gift, the largest in the school’s history, President Sean Decatur announced on Friday. The anonymous donation is the largest-ever single gift to any private liberal arts college in Ohio.

The gift will support the construction of a new academic quad (“West Quad”, which will include a new library, social sciences academic building and administrative offices.

The plans for these buildings were laid out originally in the 2014 Master Plan- a Board of Trustees-approved campus plan to improve academic facilities, update residence halls and modernize the Village of Gambier. The West Quad was designed by GUND Partnership, the architecture and planning firm belonging to Graham Gund ’63 H’81.

“My first reaction, like everybody, was that I was thrilled,” Michael Burtz ’93 said. “That’s absolutely extraordinary for a tiny college. I wasn’t surprised to see that they’re going to spend the money in infrastructure and building up the physical plan … but I guess what I’d like to see also is, some of that incredible amount of money dropped for free out of the sky into the lap of the College … going into student and financial aid.”

Decatur said that the money is going to these construction projects because the donor is invested in campus development. Benefactors can choose to direct their money to the College’s top priority construction projects, Decatur said.

The linchpin of the West Quad will be the new library. Decatur said the College plans on moving the books from the library in the summer of 2018, and placing them into a temperature-controlled storage space, which the College will build near the Kenyon Athletic Center. This structure will be permanent.

Decatur said the tentative date for the current library’s demolition will be sometime during the first semester of 2018, and will take about two years to build.

The classes of 2019 and 2020 will be the most affected, considering they will experience one to two years of construction without being able to use the new library.   

“The overall class reaction is, we don’t like that we won’t have a library for our senior year, but we understand why Kenyon is making this decision,” Kaylin Allshouse ’19, president of the junior class, said.

The College will release a plan for interim study spaces within four to five weeks, Chief Business Officer Mark Kohlman said.

The College will begin construction on the two new English buildings clustered around Lentz House this fall. The English cottage will house fifteen faculty offices; the other English building will contain two classrooms and three offices. Both buildings will be handicap-accessible. One of the classrooms in the new English building is designed in homage to Sunset Seminar Room, the main classroom in Sunset Cottage. English classroom spaces will not be affected by the construction this fall.

When the College announced plans to demolish Sunset Cottage last year, administrators faced fierce opposition. The “Save Sunset” campaign, which began online, argued in support of the building’s merits, pointing to its storied history and physical beauty. In response, the College is planning to renovate the building rather than remove it from the future West Quad.

As of right now, the College does not know how it will utilize Sunset Cottage. 

Decatur said that after they complete the new library and the West Quad, the College will focus on making Ascension handicap-accessible. Now that they have the funding for the West Quad projects, he said they will be able to prioritize Ascension in the capital campaign the College’s fundraising campaign. Decatur estimated that they wouldn’t be able to start renovations to Ascension until around 2022, but stressed that a construction timeline was not definite.

If Ascension is renovated, 90 percent of classrooms on campus will be fully accessible, up from 71 percent today.

Justin Martin ’19, who has cerebral palsy, said he appreciates the College’s efforts to make the campus more accessible, but thinks they should also direct their efforts to reaching out to disabled people.

“The physical accessibility is super important and I’m glad that 91 percent of the College is going to be accessible, but there’s also, for lack of a better term, the emotional accessibility end,” Martin said. “It’s useless to make the college accessible if the College does not actively try to recruit disabled people.”

Martin said the next step should be the inclusion of disabled voices in the school curriculum.

“We need to make sure that we are having professors that are making their syllabi contain disabled people, making the way they structure information contain disabled people [and] putting disabled writers and disabled thinkers on the curriculum,” Martin said.

Decatur is hosting an open forum where he will discuss the West Quad project and listen to student concerns at the Community Foundation Theater on Sept. 22 from 4:10 to 5 p.m.

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