“Since William Smith College began and Hobart and William Smith became coordinate colleges, our alumni and alumnae have pioneered in everything from English to economics to history,” said Trustee Cynthia Gelsthorpe Fish ’82, the lead donor in the Center’s construction. “Now, as we cut the ribbon on the Centennial Center, we will become leaders among leadership programs across the United States.”
The Centennial Center — located at 603 South Main Street — sprung from the desire to permanently commemorate the William Smith Centennial and to better fulfill the Colleges’ mission. The Center will foster the Colleges’ ability to recruit, recognize and retain high-achieving students and position students to become more competitive for national fellowships, graduate school admissions and professional opportunities. It will also offer fellowships and scholarships in commemoration of the William Smith Centennial to undergraduates in the pursuit of academic excellence.
“When I was asked to lead in support of the Centennial, I was given the opportunity to reconnect with many women from the 70s, 80s, 90s and 00s – as well as a few good men,” explained William Smith Centennial Assistant Vice President Mara O’Laughlin ’66. “Together, we raised more than $8 million to endow the renovation of 603 South Main Street and the leadership program that will now take place within its walls.”
“In our new Centennial Center for Leadership, students at the Colleges will be able to acquire all of the tools needed to pioneer in any field in the 21st century,” said O’Laughlin.
“In this new space, we will be able to develop leaders in our formal leadership program – HWS Leads -based on extensive research that will offer leadership skill training, self-assessment tools and – for the first time – offer HWS students a degree in leadership,” explained Kirra Guard ’08, who worked with Salisbury Center for Career Services Director Bob Murphy to survey leadership programs at 20 other college and university campuses.
A committee of faculty, staff and students, chaired by Murphy, is currently shaping HWS Leads. The program will create an umbrella for existing leadership initiatives, such as those of the athletic departments and residential education, and will prepare students to be leaders in the 21st century.
“When I first visited the site of this building with you, Cindy, clearly you had a vision for what a leadership center at Hobart and William Smith could be,” explained President Mark D. Gearan, referring to Fish, who gave the Center’s lead gift. “Thanks to that vision and many generous and loyal alumnae and alumni, we have been able to establish this quintessentially important building that will certainly speak to our students as their lives are transformed with the many resources now available to them at the Centennial Center for Leadership.”
“This building speaks to us,” Fish said. “Its message is clear: leadership is a value that will carry from this Centennial well into the next.”