West Quad

Library Milestone

Kenyon’s new library, its steel framework nearly completed, will be named for the College’s 13th president, Gordon Chalmers.

At a ceremony held Sept. 10 to mark the placement of one of the highest beams of steel in the new library, President Sean Decatur announced that the building’s name will borrow from Kenyon’s history: Gordon Keith Chalmers Library. 

$75 million leadership gift from an anonymous donor, among other significant support, made the project possible. 

“As we mark a milestone in the construction of this building of the future, we are delighted that our donor has again shown their deep and enduring love for Kenyon by honoring its rich past with the name Chalmers Library,” Decatur said. 

Chalmers Library will anchor the West Quad, which will also include an interdisciplinary academic building and new home for admissions and financial aid, part of the ongoing $300 million Our Path Forward campaign, which also includes priorities for expanding scholarships and learning beyond the classroom. As of the ceremony, 16,124 Kenyon alumni, parents and friends have supported the campaign, pushing the total raised past $242 million.

Members of the Kenyon community and Columbus-based Smoot Construction, the company responsible for the management and contracting of the project, were invited to sign the beam — painted Kenyon purple — before it was lifted into its permanent place within the structure. Building construction is scheduled to be done by the end of calendar year 2020, for an opening in spring of 2021.

Chair of the Board of Trustees Brackett B. Denniston III ’69 was among those who made a significant gift to support the library construction. “Choosing to invest in Chalmers Library was important to me, as it so clearly will benefit the Kenyon community and students — in new and innovative ways — for generations,” Denniston said. “We at Kenyon must continue to build the best campus in America and the world to attract the best and brightest to the Hill; this library will be a community center both for the great books and resources we treasure, but also as a hub for the best technology and collaborative, interdisciplinary learning.” 

The original Chalmers Memorial Library opened in 1962 and was named for Gordon Keith Chalmers, Kenyon’s 13th president, who served from 1937 until his death in 1956. The new Chalmers library will also recognize his wife, Roberta Teale Swartz Chalmers H’60, a poet, teacher and co-founder of the Kenyon Review.

Matthew A. Winkler ’77 P’13 H’00 also invested in the new building and recalled its former incarnation fondly. “My time at Kenyon was the amalgam of every space on every floor of Chalmers Library. I read Stendhal’s ‘The Red and the Black’ in a basement cubicle and The London Times in the main floor’s periodical room. I heard the admonishments of reference librarian Colonel [Owen T.] McCloskey entering and leaving the building. I deciphered Jonathan Edwards’ ‘Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God’ in a chair by the highest, westernmost window overlooking the graveyard. I took my inspiration from the library where the quest to live long and well began,” Winkler said.

The new Chalmers Library will feature state-of-the-art technology for undergraduate research, a concentration of student services such as the Career Development Office and classrooms that serve as laboratories for educational innovation.

Additionally, replacing the combined Olin and Chalmers libraries represents one of the largest available opportunities to reduce Kenyon’s carbon footprint. The new library is designed with the LEED Gold certification in mind and will be significantly greener and more energy efficient than the previous buildings.

Additional significant support for the new library comes from Barry F. Schwartz ’70 H’15, David W. Horvitz ’74 H’98, Steven S. Fischman ’63, the George L. Ohrstrom Jr. Foundation, Roger Novak Jr. ’70, the estate of William Wyant 1905 and a gift in memory of Robert K. Carver Jr. ’79.