The new performing arts building at the heart of the Hobart and William Smith campus – which will unite academic and performance spaces for theatre, music, dance, and media and society – has been officially named the Gearan Center for the Performing Arts in honor of President Mark D. Gearan and Mary Herlihy Gearan.
The announcement was made on Friday, Oct. 23 during a commemorative cornerstone installation which brought together students, faculty, staff, alums, the Board of Trustees and the Alumni and Alumnae Councils to celebrate the occasion in advance of the Center’s grand opening in January 2016. The largest project in the history of the Colleges, the fundraising goal of $28 million for the 65,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility was surpassed thanks to a broad base of generosity from members of the HWS community and friends of the Colleges.
“Two years ago, in fact many months before we even broke ground, the Board of Trustees met to discuss this building and its name,” said Board Chair Maureen Collins Zupan ’72, P’09 during the ceremony. “We had a very specific idea in mind, a way to honor a family that has been unwavering in its dedication to the arts and to the Colleges. We wished to recognize extraordinary leadership, a commitment to advancing the Colleges, and a staunch belief in the transformative power of the arts, community engagement and study abroad. Most importantly, we wanted to acknowledge and pay tribute to the powerful role models they have been to our students.”
Zupan added that the Board unanimously voted to name the building for the Gearans. Chair Emeritus of the Board of Trustees L. Thomas Melly ’52, L.H.D. ’02, Vice Chair and Chair Elect Thomas S. Bozzuto ’68, Trustee Thomas B. Poole ’61, P’91, L.H.D. ’06, and James F. ’56 L.H.D.’12 and Cynthia L. Caird L.H.D. ’12 were also recognized for their enduring leadership and generosity to HWS.
“Mary and I are especially thankful for this honor because of the importance of what the arts mean to us personally,” President Gearan said. “We both grew up in homes in which the arts in all its forms were embraced, because our parents believed that in doing so that they were exposing their children to – and reminding ourselves of – the very best of what humans can create and be, and we try to model that to our own daughters.”
Gearan said that as HWS students participate in the arts, they are opened to the opportunity to relate to the experiences of others, whether it’s in a play, dancing, sharing a piece of music or understanding the human condition through film. They are all ultimately learning from each other and through their experiences to go on to lead lives of consequence, he said.
During the ceremony, remarks were also given by Student Trustees Nicole M. O’Connell ’16 and Maxwell J. Gorton ’16, as well as Associate Professor of Political Science and Associate Dean of Faculty DeWayne Lucas.
O’Connell and Gorton reflected on the many significant moments that took place on campus as the Gearan Center for the Performing Arts became a permanent part on the Colleges’ skyline.
“We have watched this building take shape and we’ve been involved in its design,” O’Connell said. “Every member of the HWS community’s voice was solicited, heard and used to design and construct this building – everyone mattered.”
Gorton said: “We learned that we have a shared responsibility to give back. All of you here today – the trustees and donors who made this project a reality – you have shown us that when a group of people comes together in service to a vision, that extraordinary things can happen.”
Lucas shared remarks on behalf of Provost and Dean of Faculty Titilayo Ufomata who is currently abroad on a prestigious Fulbright International Education Administrator Seminar Award in France.
“At the intersection of literature, human behavior, politics, religion, history and science, the performing arts push students to broaden their world view,” Lucas said. “Through the performing arts, they learn important life lessons like discipline, commitment, self-confidence and teamwork, skills that will be required in any career they enter. And even if students never perform on one of the new stages, build a set, deconstruct a film, or help stage lighting, the very presence of the active and energized arts community – led by our outstanding faculty and housed in this new facility – will have a transformative influence on every student who sets foot on campus.”
To conclude the ceremony, Gearan invited members of the faculty to join the platform party for the unveiling of the cornerstone.
When completed in January 2016, Gearan Center for the Performing Arts will include a light-filled, open lobby that links three flexible performance and rehearsal spaces designed specifically for theatre, music and dance. Adaptable seating will allow for the creation of spaces that can be changed to accommodate multiple types of productions and audience sizes. The Center will also include 18 faculty offices, practice and recital rooms, and a film screening room. In its current form, academic space for theatre, music, and dance will seat, respectively, 140, 120 and 250 audience members. In addition to acoustically robust rehearsal spaces and recital halls, there will be an instrumental ensemble space seating 50 people, and a film screening room, seating 60.
The building was designed by the acclaimed Cambridge, Mass., -based architecture firm, The GUND Partnership, and managing the construction is Welliver, of Montour Falls, N.Y. To uphold the Colleges’ commitment to sustainability and in an effort to reduce the environmental impact, the design and construction teams have ensured that the project exceeds LEED Silver Certification.
The new Center will also expand the Colleges’ role in the local and regional advancement of arts and culture. Members of the greater Geneva community will share in the new arts and events space through community programs, as well as those hosted by HWS. In partnership with The Smith Center for the Arts, large-scale performances will continue to be held at the Smith Opera House in Geneva’s downtown, where events such as the annual Koshare Dance Collective show have enjoyed great success.
In the top photo above, President Mark D. Gearan, Mary Herlihy Gearan and their daughter Kathleen listen as Chair of the Board of Trustees Maureen Collins Zupan ’72, P’09 announces the naming of the building – Gearan Center for the Performing Arts.
In the second photo, President Mark D. Gearan reflects on the significance of the performing arts at HWS, but also personally, for the Gearan family.
In the third photo, Chair Emeritus of the Board of Trustees L. Thomas Melly ’52 and President Mark D. Gearan shake hands as Associate Professor of Political Science and Associate Dean of Faculty DeWayne Lucas, Board Chair Maureen Collins Zupan ’72, P’09, and Student Trustees Nicole M. O’Connell ’16 and Maxwell J. Gorton ’16 applaud during the cornerstone unveiling.
In the fourth photo, members of the HWS faculty look on as President Mark D. Gearan offers thanks on behalf of his family for the naming of the Gearan Center for the Performing Arts.