President's Page

President's Page

The moment when a long-anticipated dream comes to realization is as rare in the life of an institution as it is in the life of an individual, but that’s what happened for Vassar the first month of the new year, as the Bridge for Laboratory Sciences welcomed its first classes. The opening of the Bridge heralded the completion not only of the largest new building on campus in a century and a half, but also of our college’s Integrated Science Commons, encompassing the Bridge and newly renovated Olmsted Hall, New England, and Sanders Physics.

Both the Bridge and the Commons bear names that express an overarching vision. In the case of the Bridge for Laboratory Sciences, Ennead Architects provided us with a perfect structural metaphor for what we wanted our new science building to do. Literally, of course, it spans the ravine between the main and south campuses, bringing the entire campus closer together; figuratively, it provides a link between our distinguished history in science, dating back to the days of Maria Mitchell, and our future as a liberal arts college where 21st-century science and research are taught and conducted. As for the Integrated Science Commons, between the new Bridge and the renovated Olmsted, New England, and Sanders Physics, seven departments and four programs will call the Commons home, underscoring the multidisciplinary nature of scientific study in this century, and providing a proximity that helps to facilitate collaborations across disciplines.

The Bridge’s opening is the last and largest chapter of an effort daunting in its scale, nearly a decade in the planning and more than three years in construction. There are so many people to thank for the realization of such a vast undertaking that we intend to continue doing just that at a variety of events this year. But at the outset, I must recognize Marianne Begemann ’79, dean of strategic planning and academic resources and associate professor of chemistry, and Joseph Tanski ’95, professor of chemistry, for their exceptional leadership through a long, at times arduous, process. From the very beginning, and along every step of the way, we have regarded input from faculty as absolutely essential to the success of our new and renovated science facilities.

While all of this is reason enough to celebrate, the completed project means still more to the campus community, even those who may not be in a position to take advantage of the state-of-the-art classrooms. The location and design of the Bridge, looking southeast toward Sunset Lake over the ravine containing the Fonteyn Kill, ensured that we all would gain access to breathtaking views that heretofore were only available to passing birds (and we’ve outfitted the building with bird-safe glass to avoid fatal encounters—one of many aspects of the Bridge that earned it a Silver LEED certification for environmental responsibility). The new Bridge Café, strategically positioned to take advantage of both the view and pedestrian traffic flow, already has proven within a very short time to be a popular gathering space for students, faculty, staff, and visitors to meet, study, or simply take in the airy, light-filled space.

Sometimes it can seem, in today’s world, as if the spirit of “can do” has been lost. The successful completion of the Bridge for Laboratory Sciences and the Integrated Science Commons reminds us that sometimes it is well worthwhile to dream big, and to see those big dreams through. Even as we were nearing the culmination of this effort, our Campus Master Planning Committee released findings and recommendations for our future that will be the subject of community assessment this semester. Our founder, Matthew Vassar, taught us to look ahead and think big. And we will keep doing exactly that. As they say, stay tuned.