College Breaks Ground on Ruane Center for the Humanities
Providence College community members donned hard hats and wielded golden shovels on June 7 to break ground for the Ruane Center for the Humanities.
The 63,000-square-foot, three-level building will become the College’s signature academic building — home to the Development of Western Civilization (DWC) and Liberal Arts Honors programs — when it opens in September 2013.
The center is named in recognition of a leadership gift from Board of Trustees’ chair Michael A. Ruane ’71 and his wife, Elizabeth.
“This is the dawning of a bright new era for Providence College,” said College President Rev. Brian J. Shanley, O.P. ’80.
“We are, in a sense, going against the grain of higher education, in reaffirming the centrality and importance of the humanities and a liberal arts education,” Father Shanley said.
To be constructed between the Phillips Memorial Library and the Albertus Magnus science complex, the Ruane Center fulfills a goal of the Strategic Plan. The building was designed to accommodate the College’s new Core Curriculum, especially changes to the DWC Program, which is the focus of an undergraduate student’s education for the first two years.
The revised DWC Program is built around seminar discussions with a team-taught colloquium in the fourth semester. To support these smaller-size courses, the Ruane building will feature a dozen seminar classrooms, each with moveable tables and chairs for up to 20 students.
Other features will include a 50-seat classroom, a 60-seat classroom, a 120-seat lecture hall, a 150-seat lecture hall, a Great Room, a café, and a terrace intended to serve as space for conversation and informal study.
The building will be linked to the library. It will include offices for English and history faculty and the administrative offices of the School of Arts & Sciences.
The celebration began with a Mass celebrated by Father Shanley and concelebrated by members of the PC Dominican Community in St. Dominic Chapel.
Home for the humanities
Afterwards, in a speaking program held in the library, Dr. Vance G. Morgan, professor of philosophy and director of the DWC Program, joked that rumors of a construction of a home for the program had been circulating for all of the 18 years he has taught at PC. DWC became the cornerstone of the College’s curriculum in 1971.
He pointed out that most other higher education institutions are consolidating humanities departments or cutting positions — certainly not constructing a new, state-of-the-art center to enhance teaching and learning.
“We don’t marginalize these faculty here. We don’t consolidate them, and we don’t downsize them,” Morgan said. “We build them a new building, and not just any new building, but one that will be both a pedagogical and cultural point of destination on this campus.”
Father Shanley said that the College came to a strong consensus about a new Core Curriculum, “where Western civilization lies at the heart of that curriculum,” he said.
The education at PC is not a vocational one, although he knows people remain focused on return on investment, and he wants students to be employed after they graduate, he said.
The humanities focus on what it means to be a human and to lead a meaningful life, Father Shanley said.
“This is an education in the humanities, to ask the deepest questions about what is true, what is good, what is right, what is beautiful.… [Students] ask those questions that are lifelong questions and they read those books that will haunt them for the rest of their life,” he said.
“This building is going to enable us to provide that kind of soul-changing experience.”
As Father Shanley introduced Michael Ruane, the audience gave him a standing ovation in gratitude.
Michael Ruane, a principal of TA Associates Realty in Boston, said the building was just a piece of the entire process — just a “movement to instigate us and move us forward.”
“A building is simply a tool,” Ruane said. “It only succeeds when people in the building achieve the goals of the community — in this case, academic goals.”
A daily challenge
He challenged the faculty and students to take a pledge to improve themselves as they enter the building each day — to think, “How can I improve myself today?”
Ruane thanked his wife and children, as well as the Dominicans. “You are our foundation. You are our inspiration,” he said.
Another speaker, Clare Carroll ’14 (Merrick, N.Y.), an English major and business studies minor, thanked the Ruanes on behalf of the student body and presented them with a framed rendering of the center. “Our professors inspire us with their passion for learning,” she said. The Ruane building “will provide an interactive environment for them to continue their outstanding work.”
Stephen Hourahan ’80, a special advisor to Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee, and Providence Councilman David A. Salvatore also congratulated the College on the historic project.
The Ruane Center is projected to cost $20 million and employ 200 people during its construction. The building was designed by the S/L/A/M Collaborative and Sullivan Buckingham Architects LLC. The construction manager is Dimeo Corporation of Providence, R.I.
Its exterior design is Collegiate Gothic, intended to complement Harkins and Aquinas halls, the first buildings designed for PC. The building’s most prominent feature is a square tower above the main entrance. The tower will be illuminated at night, serving as a beacon for the College community and the neighborhood.
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