from the president
Work in progress
I step cautiously over pieces of rebar that are
strewn over the wet concrete floor in what
looks like a scattering of giant pick-up sticks.
A pool of water ripples under my boots, red-
dened by the mud surrounding the site and
reflecting a glimpse of sun coming through
the clouds. Seemingly random piles of stuff
are everywhere—rolls of insulation, coils of
wire, pallets of bricks, streams of silver-colored
screws, scraps of copper, empty buckets, dark
lines of steel stretching skyward, and strips
of blue plastic flap in the wind as they peel
off the great fir timbers that form what looks
like the skeleton of a pointed arch. It’s dirty. It
smells dirty. It’s noisy, too.
This is beautiful,” I hear my voice whis-
pering. “So beautiful.”
I admit to suffering from a hopeless
romance with construction sites. Especially
construction sites on a college campus. And
particularly this college campus. It’s not about
buildings, exactly, or even architecture. I do
love a beautifully designed and perfectly sited
plentiful glass that grace our historic buildings.
No, its magic is in the new things that it will
make possible for students, in the shared will
and intention the building manifests.
Don’t call it a dorm—because sleeping
isn’t the most important (or frequent) thing
that will happen in it. I am not sure exactly
what to call it—this “environment” that will
integrate residential life and academic inquiry
and cocurricular interests so creatively for
sophomores, juniors, and seniors. In an
arrangement students helped to design, they
will live in “houses” of nine to 12 people rather
than traditional “suites” of four to six, each
house” organized by a theme—from interna-
tional studies to interdisciplinary humanities,
from the environment and the outdoors to
entrepreneurship and leadership. Each house
will have a full kitchen and a “great room” for
dining and relaxing together. There will be as
many as three baths in each house, a laundry
room, all single bedrooms, and a lounge/study
area. The building combines privacy and peace
structure crafted from handsome and durable
materials taking its place in (and enhancing)
a landscape. But that’s not what this romance
is about. It’s more about promise. Possibil-
ity. About potential being realized. Collective
effort. The next new thing coming into being.
About creating a space for something wonder-
ful to happen. It’s a story of faith written in
stone and earth. An act of confidence in the
future. I love that.
For now, this passion of mine is invested
in the new residence hall now taking its final
shape right next to Weyerhaeuser Hall, our
spectacular Center for Health Sciences that
opened only a year and a half ago. The resi-
dence, we’re calling it Commencement Hall,
is going to be just as spectacular. And not
just because it is designed by the same AIA
gold-medal-winning architect, Peter Bohlin.
Not just because it will be another inspired
and inspiring interpretation of our signature
Tudor Gothic architecture, composed of
the red brick, clay tile, white sandstone, and
Commencement Hall, the college’s newest residence, rises on the site of the old South Hall, across from Warner Gym.
After a year of construction, students will move in at the end of August.