Board of Trustees Discusses Third-Century Developments at Annual Meeting

Colgate welcomed The Board of Trustees to campus for their annual meeting on Sept. 30 through Oct. 1. According to Colgate University President Brian W. Casey, the main objectives of the meeting were to discuss the Third-Century Plan, residential life and the effects of nationwide inflation and staffing shortages on institutional planning. 

“Most of this board meeting is an update on where we are on the Third-Century Plan with a real focus on the launch of the Middle Campus,” Casey said. “The Board will see the further development of the Benton Center with its groundbreaking event (Friday, Sept. 29) and in many ways, this is the true beginning of the Middle Campus redevelopment.”

The Benton Center for Creativity and Innovation will soon be home to performance arts, computer science and film and media studies. This new building will be the first in Colgate’s Middle Campus project to be built adjacent to James C. Colgate Hall, currently housing the Hall of Presidents and Donovan’s Pub. Its creation is possible because of the $25 million dollar donation for Colgate’s development of Middle Campus from Trustee Dan Benton ’80, according to a Feb. 1, 2021, Maroon-News article.

Casey elaborated on the purpose and importance of The Benton Center. 

“The real breakthrough of the middle campus was when the notion of technology came into that space,” Casey said. “In addition to building new arts spaces, building new technology spaces by bringing Computer Science down there and entrepreneurship there allowed the energy to come. The Benton Center is the intersection of everything.” 

Its location is also a way of facilitating this interdisciplinary advancement as it borders the Dana Arts Center and Little Hall, two major centers for arts and humanities on Colgate’s campus. The Benton Center will serve as an extension of these buildings, providing more space for those pursuing the arts to work on their craft and collaborate with peers. Casey noted the purposeful ambiguity of the building’s interior construction as well, saying that there are very few constraints on which disciplines belong in which spaces. 

“I am excited that the building’s exterior will blend well with Colgate and James C. Colgate Hall, but the inside feels very flexible,” Casey said. “When you see it from the outside, it is going to look like a very traditional building – but when you go inside, it’s going to feel very untraditional.” 

The building has been carefully designed by Robert A.M. Stern Architects (RAMSA), an international architecture practice based in New York City. The Benton Center will be the third RAMSA structure on Colgate’s campus, adding to Jane Pinchin and Burke Halls (2019) and Benton Hall (2018). Future buildings in the Middle Campus are in development phases and their designers have not been publically announced.

According to Associate Vice President for Facilities and Capital Projects Stephen Hughes, Benton Center will feature energy efficient technology to reduce its environmental impact as a part of sustainability efforts on Colgate’s campus. 

“We are going Geothermal which is awesome,” Hughes said. “It’s going to be LEED certified with 30 geothermal wells, so we will not be adding any load to the central plant for both steam and chilled water.” 

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Certification is a way of recognizing the center’s general energy-friendly construction processes and the reduction of external resources needed to power the building. As a key element of this certification, Benton Center’s geothermal energy will supply its high-tech spaces with electricity from the wells built into its infrastructure. 

Now that construction can begin, Hughes said that Colgate’s community can expect the center’s opening as early as Fall 2024. 

Board of Trustees Chairman Michael J. Herling ‘79 discussed the rest of the meeting’s topics, which included more specifics about the Third-Century Plan. 

“Another goal was to do a relatively deep dive into Colgate’s work on developing the emerging long-term plans for the Lower Campus and on the strategic plan for Athletics, both of which are significant elements of the Third-Century Plan. At each Board meeting we do similar deep dives on different elements of the Third-Century Plan with the goal of ensuring alignment between the president, the senior administration, and the Board as we move forward on these projects,” Herling said. 

Casey elaborated on the plans for athletic structures on campus. 

“The third thing they will be looking at is the Reid Renovation,” Casey said.

The Reid Athletic Center is set to be renovated after a generous $23 million dollar donation from Trustee Emeritus Chase Carey ’76 in Feb. 2022, according to a Feb. 8, 2022, Maroon-News article.

All these renovations and discussions occur alongside nationwide labor shortages and spikes in inflation rates. JS Hope, senior vice president for finance administration, works hard to ensure Colgate stays in a good financial position without hindering future projects. Hope attended the meeting and presented to the board how Colgate will maintain fiscal responsibility. 

“As the Chief Financial Officer and Chief Investment Officer, I regularly present to the full board and a smaller finance committee on the financial operations and health of the institution,” Hope explained. “The nation — including large cities as well as small rural towns — is facing staffing challenges in a lot of industries but specifically in food service, construction and retail.”

Despite these limitations, Hope does not think it will impact current projects. 

“We do not anticipate it delaying already planned projects but are keeping a watchful eye on these market conditions and how it impacts our daily operations,” Hope said. 

Sophomore Elsa O’Brien weighed in on her thoughts about the meeting and what she is most excited about the Third-Century Plan. O’Brien is most looking forward to the development of The Benton Center.

“I think it’s really a great opportunity to bring together both traditional and non-traditional artists across campus,” O’Brien said. “I think Colgate hasn’t had that for a long time so I am excited for how that might change Colgate.”

O’Brien hopes the Third-Century Plan will bring about a cultural change at Colgate. She particularly wishes there was less of a divide between the upper and lower campuses.

“I think the Third-Century plan has the opportunity to force students to talk across grades and have better relationships,” O’Brien said. “I really hope the plan includes repairing the up the hill versus down the hill divide. It kind of gets too extreme with the distance. Maybe by having a more developed middle campus this could change.”

The Board also discussed the long-term plan for the Lower Campus, which includes new housing options for juniors and seniors. According to Herling, the Board also heard from senior administrators and architects who are helping to plan Lower Campus. 

“Vice President and Dean of the College Paul McLoughlin, Senior Vice President for Finance, and Associate Vice President for Planning, Steve Hughes, have done an incredible job pulling together a very thoughtful plan that will develop a comprehensive upper-level residential and social system that will meaningfully enhance the experience for all of our students in their junior and senior years,” Herling said. 

O’Brien’s wishes might be met as the board will begin to further discuss Lower Campus.

“They will start having deeper discussions about improvements to residential life and the lower campus plan, which will take all year to plan,” Casey said.