October 13, 2016
Michelle Adams O'Regan
Communications and Marketing
The Saint Anselm College community will gain a dynamic new gathering place in the very center of campus, with a lead unrestricted gift making the expansion and renovation of the Student Center possible. The gift was announced today by President Steven R. DiSalvo, Ph.D. during a groundbreaking ceremony.
A significant portion of a $6 million commitment — the largest individual gift in the college's history — from trustee Roger L. Jean '70, HD ’06 and his wife, Francine, will enable the college to undertake the project, which is slated for completion in early 2018. The new facility will be known as the Roger and Francine Jean Student Center Complex.
For the past several years, Saint Anselm College has been in the quiet phase of a capital campaign, garnering over $39.6 million in commitments so far. The public phase of the campaign will be launched in the spring, and the Student Center renovation and expansion has been long identified as a lead priority. Now, through the generosity of the Jeans and other donors, it is beginning to become a reality.
Roger Jean retired in 2006 as Executive Vice President of the Liberty Mutual Group and President of Liberty's Regional Agency Markets business unit. His remarkably successful career in the insurance industry spanned over 35 years. In addition, he has served on many industry, for-profit and non-profit boards in both the United States and Canada. He has also served as a member of the Board of Trustees of the college since 1998 and was awarded an honorary doctor of laws in 2006 upon his retirement “in recognition of his life's work, his compassion for people and concern for future generations of Saint Anselm students.”
Born and raised in Manchester, Roger attended Saint Anselm as “a self-described 'townie.' I lived with my parents and worked 30 hours a week at a local retail establishment while going to school.” Despite the fact that the former history major did not have a traditional undergraduate experience on the Hilltop, he felt close to the college and the monastic community.
“In a number of ways, for me, Saint Anselm has always been there in some way shape or form when I needed support or assistance,” says Roger. “There always seemed to be a positive answer to whatever it was I was looking for on campus. Whether it was a conversation with one of the monks, or just sitting in the Abbey Church and reflecting on a particular situation. The institution was always there for me.”
Roger and Francine, a graduate of Suffolk University in Boston, met while both were working at Utica National Insurance Company's regional office in Burlington, Mass., and married in 1980. These dedicated Anselmians strongly believe that no qualified student should be denied a Saint Anselm education because of financial need; in particular, they note that while Roger's own college experience was fulfilling, their wish for today’s students is that they be able to take advantage of all the college has to offer, both on and off campus — from volunteering, to participating in clubs and sports, to studying abroad.
With that in mind, they established the Roger and Francine Jean Endowed Scholarship Fund in 2003, as well as the Roger and Francine Jean Annual Scholarship Fund in 2007; both provide assistance for New Hampshire students with need. The Endowed Scholarship Fund has helped 21 students so far, and over the years, the Jeans have generously increased the Annual Scholarship Fund with the purpose of providing each student awarded assistance for all four years at Saint Anselm. They hope to make the scholarship program one of the largest at Saint Anselm in the future.
Roger realizes that the higher education landscape today is challenging, and that attracting qualified prospective students in a competitive market is certainly a concern for any institution. He feels that the new Student Center Complex will help Saint Anselm to thrive in that market.
“The Student Center stood out to us in part because of discussions in Trustee meetings about the importance of a Student Center complex and the fact that we were lacking one. It seemed like a potential negative, in terms of recruiting the best students."
“That was really important to us. We want Saint Anselm to be their first choice,” says Francine.
“It’s rare you meet people like Roger and Francine, who are so passionate about this institution and what it stands for, and are generous people, who are focused on making sure that we can serve our students in the best possible way,” says Dr. DiSalvo. “And that’s what this transformational gift really is about— it’s creating space that is conducive to the academic, social and spiritual development of our students. They are lovely people who have done something very, very extraordinary.”
A Central Hub
Over the past several years, the college recognized the need to expand and renovate the existing Cushing Student Activities Center, which was built in 1960 during a period of significant campus growth.
In order to provide an updated and enlarged space for community gathering and activities for today’s students, it would be necessary to embark on a substantial improvement project. It was also necessary to ensure that any work done on the Student Center would extend the established Anselmian commitment to living learning communities by integrating the spiritual, academic and social components of life at the college into one central hub.
“The Student Center Complex is designed to serve students in many different ways; socialization, personal reflection, learning,” said Dr. DiSalvo. “It really will become the center of life here — it physically sits in the center of everything, in close proximity to residence halls, to the dining hall, to academic buildings. It’s going to attract students from all over campus.”
Making it Happen
In 2015, an Executive Committee made up of administrators, faculty members and student representatives was convened to facilitate the planning process. All departments currently housed in the Cushing Student Center were consulted by the Committee in order to discern their needs for more efficient space. In addition, meetings were held with the Student Government Association (SGA), and Chris Griebel ’16 (Senator for the Class of 2016 and SGA Welfare Chair) served as the student representative to the Executive Committee.
Griebel invited his fellow undergraduates to meetings designed to provide them with background, updates and opportunities to give input on the project, including distributing surveys designed by SGA to discern student priorities for the new complex, which were incorporated into the plans.
In June 2016, the Board of Trustees approved forward progress with “enabling activities” for the construction project, moving offices out of the existing Cushing Student Center in preparation for construction, as well as continued work on financing and with architects. The necessary approvals and endorsements, as well as the approval of the full Board of Trustees, were obtained in early September.
Designing a New Anselmian Landmark
The college has retained BHDP Architecture, known for its designs for workplace, retail, higher education, science and industrial organizations worldwide for over 75 years, to design the expanded facility, which will extend the existing 40,704 square foot Cushing Center by 12,575 square feet (for a total of 53,280 square feet).
The planned architectural designs (displayed below) maintain the integrity of the Georgian architecture and decorative elements of other campus buildings.
Plans for the allocation of space within the new complex have been made with the intention both of increasing the functionality of the space, and of providing thematic elements of Anselmian life for each floor. The second floor “theme” will be academic success; the first floor will be dedicated to programs and centers at the core of the college’s mission; the ground level will be devoted to student life and activities.
Additional new features include:
- Campus Store/Bookstore
- New café managed by in-house Dining Services staff
- Second floor glass-windowed flexible function room
- 250-seat auditorium
- Walkway access to Stoutenburgh Gymnasium
Breaking New Ground
The groundbreaking ceremony was held on October 13 in front of the Cushing Student Center. Board Chair Joanne Pietrini Smith ’85 gave welcoming remarks, followed by Chair of the Board of Trustees Campaign Committee Richard Meelia ’71, who gave an update on the progress in fundraising so far and the goal of raising a further $1.2 million before June 30, 2017. Meelia, the benefactor of the college's Meelia Center for Community Engagement, has also made a generous leadership gift and will continue to guide fundraising for the campaign moving forward.
Dr. DiSalvo then spoke about the renovated Student Center as “a functional, beautiful, and central hub for all members of our community to experience Anselmian life to the fullest,” and described the ways in which the thematic floors and new features in the complex will enhance campus life. He also thanked the design and planning teams, as well as the lead donors, for their support.
“They describe the Student Center as a ‘catalyst for the college to challenge itself,’ and it is with great faith in the future that we commit today to doing so,” he said. “This gift will transform the center of our campus, and our deepest thanks and appreciation go out to those who have made it possible to launch this project, which will forever enrich the landscape of our campus and the experience of our students.”
Dr. DiSalvo introduced the Jeans, at which time student participants revealed t-shirts with “Roger and Francine Jean Student Center Complex” and the Twitter hashtag #AnselmianFuture, which will be used by the Anselmian community online to express their thanks to the Jeans and their excitement about the renovation.
Roger expressed his and Francine's pleasure at the entire community's anticipation, saying "it's great to see so many students, because in the end this project is for you." He spoke of the Student Center Complex's potential to have a significant benefit to the college's future, both for campus life and for recruiting prospective students, and voiced the couple's continued Anselmian dedication by concluding: "It is our way to continue to give back to an old friend that has given us so much."
On behalf of the student community, Emma Bishop '18 and Brandon Pratt '18 (SGA President and Vice President) then unveiled a rendering of the front entrance of the Student Center Complex, and presented the Jeans with a framed photo and commemorative t-shirts.
Finally, Abbot Mark Cooper, O.S.B. ’71, chancellor of the college, gave a blessing for the construction:
"Dear friends, the work we are beginning today as we break ground for our new student center should both enliven our faith and make us grateful. We know the familiar words of the psalm: If the Lord does not build a house, in vain do its builders labor. God has given this Saint Anselm College so many blessings over the past century and a quarter, and continues to do so to this very day. In this blessing we come together as God's co-workers, and so let us turn to him in prayer that he will bring this construction to successful completion and that his protection will keep those who work on it safe from harm and injury."
Construction will be ongoing on the Student Center until the projected completion in early 2018, while fundraising will continue with the objective of raising 50% of the total $16.5 million project cost.
The Jeans look forward to a bright future for Saint Anselm College, and Roger hopes that the Student Center complex is only the beginning: “It’s Chapter One of what should be a much longer book when it comes to our asking the right questions about how we transform ourselves into everything we aspire to. What is the very best Saint Anselm College that we can be?”