Progress in Pleasantville

In a few days we’ll cut the ribbon and officially open the expanded Kessel Student Center. Since we are rebuilding approximately half the campus, there will be more ribbon cutting ceremonies in the months ahead. Slowly but surely, student life and bustle—rather than construction—is becoming the most visible activity on campus.

I’ve recently toured the campus and it’s very exciting to see the construction sites shrink and our renewed campus take shape. The expanded Kessel Center has more room for student activities and meetings, as well as dining, and is once again teeming with student life. We still need to do some landscaping and, when the weather gets better, we will plant grass, shrubs and trees. By summer Kessel will look like a Pace postcard.

I’m also very excited that work on the Environmental Center is just about finished. Students are using the new classroom and we completed many of the site improvements last fall. All that’s left is to finish the new farmhouse, and we hope to have that completed soon.

Construction on Alumni Hall continues. The first of two new residence halls under construction, Alumni Hall will open for business in time for the fall semester. Work on the new athletic facilities is also progressing. The baseball field is ready for its new surface. Once the weather improves, we will put down a new artificial turf field for football and other sports. We are also putting the finishing touches on a new lecture hall in Willcox Hall. Students will begin using the new space next semester.

Other new facilities are already open. Students in our media arts and communications program started working on a new sound stage in Willcox last fall. We also replaced the old sculpture studio in Paton House with a new one in the Art Barn and added an additional classroom in Paton House. These new spaces also opened last semester.

The renewal of our Pleasantville campus has many advantages. Once construction of Alumni Hall is complete, we will relocate many students from Briarcliff to Pleasantville and all students will benefit from enhanced academic and social programs. We’re creating more green space for students to enjoy, and our new living learning communities in the residence halls will help us inject academics deeper into student life.

Most of all, however, our physical renewal in Pleasantville will lead to greater interest in, and growth of, our academic programs. We’ve seen it before. When we renovated the science labs in Pleasantville, enrollment in our science programs went up. When we created a new state-of-the-art home at 140 William Street in New York City for our performing arts program, enrollment jumped and our ability to recruit and retain high-quality faculty members also improved. We expect the same result in Pleasantville from this major project.

Former UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill once said, “We shape our buildings, thereafter they shape us.” No doubt our new and improved facilities in Pleasantville will help shape students for many years to come.

Bo’s story

I often talk about the amazing stories at Pace University. These stories recount victories of exceptional students and teams of students, highlight the accomplishments of our well-respected faculty, and demonstrate the heart of our University—like when everyone pulled together after Superstorm Sandy.

Then there is Bo’s story. It is a story that embodies the best elements of all our other stories combined. Bo’s story reminds us that Pace is a very special place, made up of very special people.

Nine years ago, 10-year-old Robert “Bo” Jones was diagnosed with Medulloblastoma—a form of brain cancer. The little boy that loved to run and lift weights underwent surgery to remove tumors. He endured radiation, chemotherapy, and more doctors’ visits and tests than most adults face in a lifetime.

During Bo’s ordeal his mother introduced him to Make-A-Wish—the national organization that grants wishes for children diagnosed with life-threatening medical conditions. While most kids wish for a trip to Disney World or to meet their favorite celebrity, Bo, who was then a teenager and in remission, wished for one year of strength and conditioning workouts with a Pace athletics trainer.

“I was struck by his determination,” Mike Bohlander, Pace’s strength and conditioning coach said. “He could have had anything with his wish. But he chose to come to Pace three days a week for one year and have me push him to improve his cardio and strength fitness. He had a plan and it was a pleasure to help him.”

Bo said he had wanted to attend Pace since high school, and his plan was to build himself up before his freshman year. Bo accomplished both goals. He started at Pace in Pleasantville earlier this month. He’s an education major. He’s also a Make-A-Wish volunteer. Best of all, Bo remains cancer-free.

Coach Bohlander said he still works with Bo, but Bo knows what he wants to accomplish and doesn’t need anyone’s help. “Bo inspires me,” he said. “The amount of progress he made in a short amount of time was truly remarkable. You can’t teach desire, and every day I work with him I get to see him accomplish something new.”

As I said, there are many amazing stories at Pace. I think one reason we have so many great stories is because our students, faculty, and staff support and care about each other. I also believe that the very special qualities that everyone brings to Pace will lead to more great stories in the future. I just have a feeling, however, that it will be difficult to top Bo’s story.

A new school year begins and our renewal continues

So many exciting things are happening at Pace this year. There is a wonderful renewal taking place and we’re making great progress in a challenging environment.

It’s not easy to convey the excitement and pride many of us feel about Pace’s future in a post, so I put together a short video that updates you on our progress and plans for the future. You can access it by clicking here.

As you watch the video, I hope you’re as proud of our progress as I am. We are renewing a great University that will help current and future students succeed for many years to come.

Renewal Made Tangible

I toured the Pleasantville construction sites last week. After three years of reviewing architects’ renderings, financial projections, and construction plans—three years of wondering if the reality would match the dream—it was an incredibly exciting day.

The new Environmental Center buildings are rising from the ground in a beautiful combination of stone and cedar that blends seamlessly with both the stone of Paton House and the wooded area that the new Environmental Center occupies. The two buildings that have been framed and clad bring a tangible reality to those renderings, projections, and plans, a reality that exceeded my expectations.

 That reality makes it possible to more clearly imagine the major changes that will be finished this summer and next year. Most of the other sites are currently holes in the ground; including the site of Alumni Hall—the new residence hall that will frame the campus green stretching to the front of the new entrance to the Kessel Student Center—and the site of the old Environmental Center that will contain the second new residence hall. But with the Environmental Center as a guide and some imagination, every hole becomes a beautiful building bustling with student life. I can almost see the campus green, Alumni Hall, and the new Kessel shining in the sun.

 This project is a great tribute to years of hard and imaginative work by so many committed people—including our architects, construction manager, regulatory consultants, and others—under Bill McGrath’s superb leadership. While construction has just begun, it will move quickly and it will truly usher in a new era for Pace in Westchester County.