As Kenyon celebrates 50 years of women at the College, three women have recently made significant gifts to name key spaces in the new Gordon Keith Chalmers Library. Construction on the West Quad project has continued during the remote semester, with an opening scheduled for the spring of 2021.
Each woman’s gift holds a personal connection to the space they elected to name.
In recognition of a planned estate gift from Betty Lou Hawbaker — with an estimated value of $10 million — the largest space in the new library will honor her son, Robert K. Carver Jr. ’79. The first-floor Robert K. Carver Jr. Reading Room features two-story windows facing Middle Path and neighboring Rosse Hall, providing abundant natural light. The 36-by-70-foot space — more than 2,500 square feet — will feature a mix of desks and armchair seating for up to 100.
Hawbaker called the reading room a natural fit for her son’s memory, noting that he deeply enjoyed his time at Kenyon studying classics. “The reading room is so appropriate. Because from the time he was a tiny tot, I told him, ‘Books are your best friend,’” she said.
With her $1 million gift to the library project, Ellen W. Griggs ’77 chose to honor her family’s many ties to Kenyon — her father, Alexander Griggs ’53, her uncle, niece and cousins are all alumni — by naming a space to help position students for future success. “I think it’s important that Kenyon have a widely recognized career development opportunity to offer to students,” she said.
The Ellen W. Griggs ’77 Career Development Suite will occupy the northern side of the second floor and feature a mix of offices and meeting rooms off a lobby area. Moving Kenyon’s career services to the central location was a key goal of the design, recognizing the increasing need for today’s students to connect liberal arts education with practical job opportunities and skills.
Griggs’ gift is a blended gift, combining a current cash portion with the remaining amount to be funded from her estate. “It really was a good opportunity for me to give back, as well as facilitate a way for students to benefit from my gift,” Griggs said.
With her $1 million gift to name the Christine Gould Sharkey ’80 Writing Center, Sharkey is honoring her family’s love of libraries — her mother and her sister Allison Gould Gallaher ’79 were both librarians — and recognizing the critical role that strong writing skills have played in her own career.
Sharkey, a political science major, points to writing skills instilled by her mother and sharpened at Kenyon as critical to her ability to communicate effectively with the engineers, scientists, MBAs and accountants at what’s now Corning Incorporated, the Corning, New York, glass technology and manufacturing company where she has spent her four-decade career. “I think like so many people from Kenyon, it was a formative experience for me, it changed my life,” she said.
The writing center will move from its current location on the third floor of Peirce Hall to the south side of the second floor of Chalmers, giving greater prominence to services offered by trained student writing consultants.
All three gifts support the ongoing Our Path Forward campaign, the single largest priority of which is scholarship support. Funding for the West Quad project, which also includes a new academic building as well as one for the Offices of Admission and Financial Aid, was jump-started by a $75 million anonymous gift.
President Sean Decatur said the gifts are each their own testament to the enduring lifetime impact of a Kenyon education. “For each of these women, making the choice to give now says a lot about their lasting faith in Kenyon and its value, despite this challenging moment for us all.”
“We are grateful for their investment in Kenyon and the success of its students for generations to come,” Decatur said.
Rose Brintlinger Fealy ’84, tri-chair of the Our Path Forward campaign, celebrated the news. “I cannot think of a more fitting way to conclude the yearlong celebration of 50 years of coeducation at Kenyon than for three women donors to be leading the way in support of the library on the eve of Kenyon’s third century,” Fealy said.
A recently launched Women & Philanthropy initiative, which includes an endowed and annual scholarship for Kenyon women, was created to elevate and encourage philanthropy by women at all levels. “Women may have only been at Kenyon for 50 years, but these gifts to our library that will welcome generations are a bold declaration of the leadership role women will play at Kenyon for the next 50 and beyond,” Fealy said.