On Jan. 18, construction officially began on the Barbara Walters Campus Center. President Cristle Collins Judd led a special groundbreaking ceremony on Andrews Lawn, and the entire Sarah Lawrence community was invited.
Judd opened the event with a discussion of Barbara Walters’s legacy. The journalist and television personality credits SLC with teaching her how to ask questions - “and what questions she has asked,” Judd remarked, “over her illustrious career.” In much the same way, the college asked questions of itself, and what would make “a true campus center” for its community. This process has been ongoing for nearly eight years, and included a survey of the student body about its “priorities for space improvement.” Judd thanked all those who came out, for they would be “building our future for generations to come.”
She then made a few observations about the campus center itself. When completed, it will act as a “front door” to SLC, heralding a “deeper sense of engagement” within the college, and for the college within its surrounding community. The building will also create “a civic space” and “cultural anchor” in a time when society faces the “pressing need for opportunities to foster open conversation.” Judd also commended Walters for her “extraordinary foresight” and her gift of $15 million to fund the center’s construction.
Mark Goodman, chair of the board of trustees, commented on the transformations that each new building has brought about on campus. The most recent came when the Heimbold Visual Arts Center created “a real home” for artistic innovation. Several years earlier, the Alice Stone Ilchman Center established math and science as “critical to providing a truly holistic approach to the liberal arts,” and the Campbell Sports Center gave students the opportunity to “complement academic achievements with athletic ones.” Goodman said the Barbara Walters Campus Center will be a “home and point of intersection and interaction for the entire college,” something he feels it has “lacked for generations.”
Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano spoke of the growing partnership between his city and SLC, and how the new campus center will add to that. He hoped that it would not be “just brick and mortar” but a “center for engagement” that will connect the two communities, where people can “gather, unite, and certainly make a difference.” Bronxville mayor Mary Marvin echoed this sentiment. She is confident that the campus center will make SLC even more of a “beacon for intellectual and cultural life,” allowing both the “young and not-so-young” to “engage more with each other.” Judd even joked that while SLC has many distinctions, there may be no other school with “two mayors” who want to claim it as their own.
Kendal Flowerdew ‘19 and Christina Tanzola MFA ’19 followed, representing the campus center steering group. Flowerdew called the center a “much-needed addition” to campus, providing spaces “we never seem to have.” Whether for large gatherings or “just hanging out with friends,” students will have a hard time imagining what they “ever did without the place.” If nothing else, it gives them somewhere to spend time together “that isn’t the library.”
Walters herself could not be present, but left Judd with some thoughts to share. She believes now is an exciting time for the college, and sends her “very warmest wishes” for a “place of study, of contemplation, and of socializing” that will be a focus for years to come.
Afterwards, Judd called all of the speakers down to the lawn. They put shovels to dirt, laying the symbolic foundation for a vision that will finally be realized in Fall 2019.
Benjamin Willems '21