Casey Announces Benton’s 25 Million Dollar Gift to Fund Middle Campus Plan

University President Brian Casey recently announced plans to move forward with Colgate’s Middle Campus Plan for Arts, Creativity and Innovation as part of the University’s Third Century Plan. In a Feb. 1 email to the student body, Casey announced that Daniel Benton ’80 made a $25 million gift to the University in support of the plan. Casey wrote that $20 million will be allocated towards the construction of The Benton Center for Creativity and Innovation, a two-building complex housing the disciplines of computer science, film and media studies, theater and dance. 

“Just as Middle Campus will serve as a physical point of connection between the hill and West Campus, it promises to establish new academic links between departments, curricula and student co-curricular interests — from staging dance performances to developing entrepreneurial ventures through Thought Into Action,” the email reads. 

Casey said he is excited for the many new possibilities that the construction of these new buildings will bring to campus culture. Since beginning his presidency at Colgate, Casey has recognized the need for high-quality facilities for those involved in the arts. 

“In the year before I became president… I received several reports that had been written over many years about the state of the arts facilities at Colgate and that they were insufficient,” Casey said. “I came in and I said, ‘We have to address this.’”

The plan to renovate arts facilities on campus started with a plan to renovate the existing Dana Arts Center. 

“We can’t be a liberal arts education without having the study of the arts and the capacity for arts performance. It was clear Colgate needed to make a move in the arts — in the performing arts, the fine arts, historical arts,” Casey said. “[The thing] that I learned very quickly was Dana as a building really faced significant challenges both [in] maintenance and its usage.” 

Discussion of the Middle Campus Plan was born out of these conversations within the University administration. 

“I always loved the order and beauty of a traditional campus on the top [of the hill] but once you leave it, it gets a little chaotic and random,” Casey said. “So those two narratives came together and said, the next academic quad for Colgate is below Persson, from the library toward Dana.” 

Casey said he hopes that the Middle Campus Plan will bring more opportunities to students and faculty alike. 

“So much can happen that’s interesting intellectually and artistically on the edges of things. And by creating the possibility for computer scientists to run into film and media folks who run into musicians strikes me as great,” Casey said. “I just feel like that’s compelling, and I can imagine us looking for faculty members over the next couple of years who can move among those departments.”

The new campus buildings will also serve as brand-new space for various student activities. Colgate’s Thought Into Action entrepreneurship program is among the extracurricular activities that Casey hopes will benefit from the construction of the new middle campus. 

“The Thought Into Action program… has always been kind of co-curricular,” Casey said. “In the beginning it was really art. And then when the computer scientists came along and [the] frame moved from art to creativity… that’s when it seemed obvious to a lot of people that it belongs in [the new buildings].”  

Vice President for Advancement Karl Clauss said that more specific building plans for Middle Campus are currently underway. 

“Right now we are in the programming phase of building planning,” Clauss said. “We are working out which aspects will go into which building. As we do this planning, we are also thinking about how these two new buildings will relate to Dana, which is being renovated and reconceived as part of the Middle Campus Plan.”

Some students studying in the departments impacted by the Middle Campus Plan say they are thrilled at the prospect of having new space to practice their crafts. Art history minor and junior Chris McElhaney looks forward to the new opportunities these buildings will introduce to current and future students. 

“I think the new facilities will help interested students get involved in the arts at Colgate and bring new and bright ideas to the programs,” McElhaney said. 

Film and media studies minor and junior Caroline Baird is similarly excited about the new possibilities that the Middle Campus Plan may offer. 

“I’m really excited to see how students will make their impact on the building once classes start. In Little Hall, there is always artwork made by students hung up and it gives the building such a creative feeling,” Baird said. “I’m excited to see how the new Benton Center will carry on that artistic feeling that Little Hall has.”