The opening ceremony of the Gearan Center for the Performing Arts brought together hundreds of guests on Saturday, Jan. 23 to celebrate the formal unveiling of the building and to thank the donors who made it possible. Designed to enhance the study, practice and experience of music, theatre, dance and media and society, the 65,000-square-foot facility is situated at the heart of the Hobart and William Smith campus.
The momentous occasion, which featured a ribbon-cutting with the building’s top donors as well as dozens of dedications to honor supporters in their namesake spaces, offered attendees – many arriving from around the country – the chance to view the high-tech facility and its array of impressive spaces.
“Music, theatre, dance, film. They give us a common language to discuss ideas, they challenge us to enter into conversations about the nature of what it means to be human, and they inspire us to fulfill and meet our potential,” said President Mark D. Gearan during the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “Together, these disciplines – music, dance, theatre and media and society – now have a home that honors their history as it also encourages new innovation and creativity.”
On stage inside the Gearan Center’s soaring L. Thomas Melly ’52 Lobby, named for Chair Emeritus of the Board of Trustees L. Thomas Melly ’52, L.H.D.’02 and his wife Judith H. Melly, Gearan thanked the many attendees who made the project possible. “It is with gratitude and deep appreciation that we gather today,” said Gearan. “The accomplished individuals on this stage have given more than half of the important resources of $30 million necessary to make this performing arts center a reality.”
Giving particular recognition to Melly, which was met with thunderous applause, Gearan said: “This center for the performing arts is a monument to your commitment and a constant reminder to our students of the power of one person – one very deeply committed person – to profoundly make a difference.”
“I think this will change the campus, which was my dream, and I think the student body and the campus will be a different place because of it,” said Melly, who was joined on stage by his wife, Judith. “I enjoy seeing the enthusiasm of the students and the faculty on this project.”
“I’m proud, most of all, of my beloved husband,” Judith reflected at the podium. “His passion, his vision, his leadership and his great love for these Colleges have helped to make this a reality today.”
With construction completed, the Gearan Center stands at the center of campus activity, aligned by a walkway that connects to the front steps of the Scandling Campus Center. Through the building’s main entrance, the lobby invites those on the first floor to connect with performance spaces for theatre, music and dance as well as a film-screening room for media and society. The second floor features academic spaces for theatre and dance, as well as faculty offices. The third floor, primarily dedicated to music, includes classrooms, practice spaces and faculty offices. A tower and rooftop terrace are also signatures of the third floor. The facility is equipped with state-of-the-art technology and all of the performance spaces and classrooms are designed as smart rooms, enhancing the student-learning experience.
For their longstanding commitment to the Colleges and in recognition of their support, Gearan paid tribute to former Board Chair and Honorary Trustee David H. ’75 and Jamie T. Deming; Trustee Cynthia Gelsthorpe Fish ’82; Edward A. ’55 and Joanne I. Froelich; Christopher P. McDonald ’77, L.H.D.’13; Trustee Craig R. ’81 and Kathy Hay Stine P’17; Trustee Christopher S. ’84 and Catherine Whitney ’83 Welles P’12, P’15; Rita Goldstein Ashton P’04, P’07; and Nozomi Hilayama Williams L.H.D.’14.
HWS Board Chair Maureen Collins Zupan ’72, P’09 recognized President Gearan and Mary Herlihy Gearan, both on stage, for their steadfast loyalty to the Colleges. The Board of Trustees unanimously voted to name the building for the Gearans, and in October 2015, during a commemorative cornerstone installation ceremony, the facility was officially named the Gearan Center for the Performing Arts.
“We had a very specific idea in mind, a way to honor a family that has been unwavering in its dedication to the arts, to the Colleges and to Geneva,” Zupan said. “We wished to recognize nearly two decades of extraordinary leadership and to do so in a way that will be visible to future generations of faculty, students, trustees and donors.”
Reflecting on the recognition, Gearan said: “As you can imagine this is a singularly unique experience for Mary, for our daughters Madeleine and Kathleen, and certainly for me. We are beyond honored by the thoughtfulness of the Board and have pledged ourselves to do everything we can to promote the arts on this campus and certainly in Geneva. This is a space that matches the excellence of our students and talent of our faculty and staff. We thank you most sincerely.”
During her remarks, Zupan praised the realization of the Gearan Center as a collective effort, acknowledging inspiration from students, faculty and staff, as well as significant guidance from Vice Chair and Chair Elect Thomas S. Bozzuto ’68 and Trustee Thomas B. Poole ’61, P’91, L.H.D. ’06, who led the Buildings and Grounds Committee of the Board of Trustees during the planning and construction of the facility.
“At the center of our campus, this building represents our collective belief in the power of the performing arts to shape our students,” Zupan said. “It is the culmination of years of effort on the part of many people and is the final capital project in Campaign for the Colleges.”
The Gearan Center, which began construction in mid-2014, is consistent with the campus architecture and includes many classic elements such as warm bricks, elegant stone, and steep-pitched roofs crowned with natural Vermont slate. To uphold the Colleges’ commitment to sustainability and in an effort to reduce the environmental impact, the building is expected to achieve LEED Silver Certification or better.
Also in attendance and recognized during the ceremony were: Graham Gund, president of the GUND Partnership, the acclaimed Massachusetts-based architecture and planning firm that designed the Gearan Center; Meng Howe Lim, lead architect; A. Scott Welliver, president of Welliver, the Finger Lakes-based firm that served as construction manager; and New York Senator Michael F. Nozzolio L.H.D.’07 (R-Fayette).
Later in the evening, the celebration concluded with a special dinner held in the Scanding Campus Center, as well as dazzling inaugural performances and open houses featuring students and faculty held in the building’s major venues, including McDonald Theatre, Deming Theatre, Froelich Hall, Hilayama-Williams Family Ensemble Hall, Fish Screening Room and the Dance Studio. There also was a presentation by Lim and Associate Director for Planning and Construction and Senior Project Manager Chris Button about the building process.