Center for Global Learning Will Lend a Valuable Perspective
from The Bridge: Winter 2014 issue
The Center for Global Learning is closer to reality thanks to a $2.5 million grant from the Dyson Foundation of Millbrook, N.Y., a private, family-directed, grant-making foundation. Established in 1957, it is led by Robert R. Dyson, who has served as its president since 2000. The foundation awards grants throughout New York's Dutchess County and Mid-Hudson Valley, as well as outside the Hudson Valley. Chris Dyson '00, the foundation's vice president, has developed many real estate projects nationally and in the Hudson Valley. He has served on the board of the Dyson Foundation for several years and as treasurer for the past five.
"We've had a history of supporting W&L. The school is near and dear to our hearts," says Chris Dyson. "We've tried to designate funding toward projects that will make the greatest impact on the University's future."
Dyson also is sporting director of Dyson Racing, a professional racing team based in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and has won two series drivers' championships in the IMSA American Le Mans Series.
The Center for Global Learning will serve as the cornerstone of a comprehensive program and as an important physical focal point for W&L's international education initiative. It will draw together students and faculty from across departments, elevating broader view- points and driving and informing an integrated vision of global learning for the whole campus. The center comprises 8,600 square feet in the renovated duPont Hall and an estimated 17,700 square feet in a new wing.
The hope is that construction will com- mence in the last half of 2014 if fund-raising is completed by the summer of 2014. It is projected to cost $13.5 million; the fund- raising goal is $11.5 million. As they prepare for their 25th and 50th reunions, the Classes of 1989 and 1964 are focusing on the Center for Global Learning for their class gifts.
The Dyson Foundation has previously supported the University's Spring Term cur- riculum and other initiatives. "Every single gift has been special for us, but the Center for Global Learning is especially exciting because it helps to fill in a missing piece in the curricu- lum, namely interdisciplinary studies that are truly global in offering and reach, including overseas programming and enhanced language train- ing," Dyson says. "The center ties in with the physical plan of the University, resurrecting duPont in such a way to keep the University architecturally cohesive. But what is most important is expanding the course offerings that will make W&L more vibrant and vital."
Renovating and expanding duPont Hall and its surrounding space will position the center at a prominent campus lo- cation, at the northern end of Stemmons Plaza. The combined space will contain 12 teaching areas, including classrooms, a seminar room and instructional laboratories. The entry to the new wing will include a two-story atrium that will convey to visitors the purpose and impor- tance of the center, which will include state-of-the-art technology. Its design will respect and complement the character of duPont Hall and the entire historic campus.
"The whole concept of revitalizing the north end of campus is really exciting," says Charlie Prioleau '82, P'16. He and wife Mimi, parents of Wilson Prioleau '16, have made a leadership gift toward the center. "I was a chemistry major at W&L and spent a lot of time at the north end of campus," he recalls. "Now there will be an attractive terrace and garden area, which will bookend the campus nicely and be an inviting place for students to hang out. In addition, it is near the Admissions Office, and will be a wonderful selling point for the University, which will, hopefully, attract an increasingly diverse student body."
"The Center for Global Learning will combine architecture, technology, design and programming in a global marketplace of ideas that will distinguish Washington and Lee among its peers," says Larry Boetsch '69, director of international education at W&L. "More than a destination, the center will be a campus hub and will, as W&L's window on the world, showcase interdisciplinary approaches to global learning as cross-cultural knowledge, encompassing both domestic and foreign issues. The transformation of duPont Hall into the Center for Global Learning is inspired primarily by the University's intention to integrate global learn- ing into the education of all W&L students."
"The tipping point for me in wanting to commit to this project was the fact that Larry Boetsch is heading it up," says Geordy Johnson '05, manager of investment services at AvalonBay Communities, in Arlington, Va. The Johnson family—Geordy, his parents, George and Susu Johnson, of Spartanburg, S.C., and his sister, Susanna Johnson '06, an associate with Johnson Development Associates, of Evanston, Ill.—have made a million-dollar commitment to the project. "I have a tremendous amount of respect for Professor Boetsch. He served as interim president of the University while I was at W&L, and his experience in Germany [as president of the European College of Liberal Arts] is really going to lend itself to this project."
Both Chris Dyson and Jorge Estrada '69 are also glad to see Boetsch at the helm. "I have great confidence in my classmate, Larry Boetsch, who is heading up the center," says Estrada, who has donated $125,000 to the project. "Larry Boetsch has been involved in the gestation of this idea. He has done a phenomenal job of conceiving of this," agrees Dyson.
Johnson says he and Susanna had incredibly positive experiences at W&L, and that he and his family "wanted to give back to the legacy that those before us helped establish that allowed us to have such a great experience. Both my sister and I had the opportunity to travel abroad as undergraduates. We both benefited from the multicultural global experience that travel afforded us. Even though we were liberal arts majors, we are now both in business. Today's business culture is very competitive, and you need to have a global perspective."
"Today's world is more connected than ever, so this center will be a huge selling point for the University," agrees Prioleau, managing partner of PriCap Partners L.L.C., in Houston. "We have had ongoing conversations about ways to support the school, but we were very motivated when we learned about the Center for Global Learning. For one thing, when I was at W&L, there was no venue for this sort of study abroad or to bring foreign exchange students in."
Jorge Estrada P'04, '05, '06, '13, '16 recalls that environment well: "As a former lonely foreign student at W&L, I felt that this was a good place to put to work some of the money that I contribute as a way of paying back the University." Estrada, the president and CEO of JEMPSA Media and Entertainment, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, has also committed $125,000 to the Annual Fund. "I personally experienced the need for having a more diverse student body, and the center should contribute to this. The Center for Global Learning is important because in a globalized world, all W&L stakeholders need to be exposed to what is happening throughout the world. And this appears to be a great vehicle to accomplish that objective."