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The groundbreaking for the R. W. Kern Center on November 14 marked the official beginning of Hampshire College’s most ambitious building project in decades.
The Center, designed to meet the exacting standards of the Living Building Challenge, will house classroom and gallery space, the admissions office, the school store, and a café. Equally important, said President Jonathan Lash to the crowd gathered for the event, is that it will clearly present Hampshire’s dedication to sustainable practices.
“It’s such a remarkable challenge because we’re used to thinking about minimizing the damage we do to the world,” said President Lash. “This building is using physical construction to improve our world. It can raise questions, and can help us think about what is possible.”
Bill Kern 75F, who attended with his mother Leona, said naming the building after his father was an important tribute for him. When the two visited the College together for the first time in 1975, he said that his father “got this place before I did.”
“As you come to know more about R. W. Kern, you will be proud to have his name on this building. Education and hard work were the tools he used to shape his life,” said Kern. “He understood the importance of learning how to learn, and that was the key to his success.”
The Kern Center will give prospective students and their families a representative introduction to Hampshire College when they arrive for admissions tours, said Meredith Twombly, interim dean of admissions and financial aid.
For student Wesley Evans 12F, a member of the Kern Center Building Committee who got involved in the project shortly after arriving at Hampshire, the building presents the opportunity to “change the world for the better.”
“This project represents the hopes and dreams of our community brought forward into society,” Evans said.
President Lash thanked the many people involved in funding, planning, and designing the Kern Center, and looked forward to its scheduled opening in 16 months.
“This is step one,” he said before leading the group onto the construction site to ceremonially dig into the dirt. “We’ve got a lot of work still to do together.”