In September 2017, President Sean Decatur and Board of Trustees Chair Brackett B. Denniston III ’69 announced that Kenyon had received the largest gift in its history: $75 million from an anonymous donor. This transformational gift will support the development of a new library and academic quadrangle. The interdisciplinary hub in the core of campus will bring together 21st century teaching and learning with 21st century library, information and student services.
Decatur and Denniston revealed the project, called the West Quad for its location on the west side of campus, at an event in Rosse Hall that was livestreamed to alumni, parents and other members of the Kenyon community.
“This is an incredible show of confidence in Kenyon’s vision for the liberal arts and sciences,” said President Sean Decatur. “This gift advances several priorities of the Kenyon 2020 strategic plan, including our focus on an integrated, comprehensive experience that equips students to thrive at Kenyon and in their lives after.”
The West Quad will consist of three new buildings: the library and academic commons to replace Olin and Chalmers libraries; a new interdisciplinary academic building for the social sciences; and a new home for the offices of admissions and other key student services. Underground parking in the new quad will improve accessibility as well as reclaim green space.
Ascension Hall, one of the College’s most beloved and historic buildings, will be renovated to ensure that all students and faculty are able to access it, and Sunset Cottage, another cherished building, will be preserved for future renovation and use.
The gift enables the College to proceed with an expansion of facilities for the English department and to continue apace with its investment in the Village of Gambier, which includes new student housing, the new market and improved retail and dining spaces.
“Investing in our historic campus and our community is one of the ways we remain competitive, enabling us to attract and retain a talented and diverse student body — a Kenyon 2020 priority,” said Denniston. “This gift also better enables us to address another Kenyon 2020 priority: financial aid, the endowment and affordability.”
Equipped with state-of-the-art technology, the new library will be a hub for undergraduate research and a laboratory for pedagogical innovation. Intentionally interdisciplinary, the new academic building will offer flexible spaces to support high-impact experiences in the humanities and social sciences — student-designed research, capstone projects and other collaborative work.
“Teaching and learning are evolving, and Kenyon needs facilities that are a match for the kinds of flexible, high- and low-tech approaches that faculty and students expect to use seamlessly,” Decatur said. “Classrooms that allow students and faculty to work in various configurations, to use multiple pieces of technology simultaneously, to collaborate with people around a table or via videoconference — these are the kinds of high-impact practices that serve students in the classroom, and in their careers.”
In addition, the West Quad will provide a new home for the career development office, furthering the College’s efforts to build a continuum between work in the classroom and in the world.
“Now more than ever, it is critical that we make visible the ways in which Kenyon equips students of all backgrounds for post-graduate success. Centering the admissions and career development offices in the academic core of campus puts the values, and the value, of a Kenyon education front and center,” Decatur said.
This gift will enable the College to make major strides toward a more accessible Kenyon campus. Once the West Quad and renovations to Ascension are completed, 90 percent of classrooms will be fully accessible, — up from 71 percent today — including 100 percent of classrooms with between 20 and 100 seats. Additionally, replacing 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 current buildings.
The West Quad project is expected to be complete in summer 2021.