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Updates from December 2019 Board of Managers Meeting

Dear Friends,

We are thrilled to share that at its meeting last week, Swarthmore College’s Board of Managers approved the construction of the new Dining and Community Commons—which will transform the student experience for generations to come. Thank you to the hundreds of you who have been part of the multi-year process of identifying the programmatic needs of the building, selecting the architectural firm, informing the initial schematic designs, and providing feedback through town halls earlier this fall. The building has been designed with a goal of net-zero carbon emissions and contains infrastructure to support “Roadmap to Zero,” our energy master plan designed to reimagine our approach to powering, heating, and cooling campus and realize our commitment to reach carbon neutrality by 2035. 

We will break ground on this exciting project in Summer 2020. The new portion of the building will open in 2022 and serve as the new dining facility for students and community members. At that point, we will begin renovating the existing Sharples as a student-focused commons that will draw our community together. That phase of the project should be completed by Fall 2023.

While the approval of the Dining and Community Commons is the most notable action from this meeting, we had a productive time together covering a variety of additional topics, which we’ve summarized below.

During our first plenary session, Vice President for Finance and Administration Greg Brown, Sustainability Director Aurora Winsdale, and Associate Vice President for Sustainable Facilities Operations Andy Feick provided a detailed update on the Dining and Community Commons, as well as on the “Roadmap to Zero.” The presentation also included an update on the College’s efforts to identify and address deferred maintenance issues across campus.

Professors Rachel Buurma and Tim Burke, who co-direct the Aydelotte Foundation, led our second plenary. After an update on the work of the Foundation, they led an intellectually stimulating conversation around the future of the liberal arts. The Board has expressed an interest in engaging in these types of deeper, longer-term conversations.

One of the highlights of our meeting took place during lunch on Friday, when we not only heard from a number of students and faculty from the visual and performing arts, but also had the privilege of experiencing their extraordinary talent. Students showcased their work in the arts by presenting scenes from opera and theater performances, playing Taiko drums, dancing,  screening short films, displaying photography, and discussing their experiences in and beyond the classroom.

The Board greatly appreciates the opportunity to engage with students and faculty in this way, and we are incredibly grateful to the students, faculty, and staff who contributed to making this wonderful experience a reality. 

Other business at Saturday’s full Board meeting included the approval of Honorary Degree candidates (to be announced publicly once they are confirmed) and the appointment of three endowed chairs:

  • Elizabeth Vallen, Biology, has been appointed to the Howard A. Schneiderman ’48 Professorship in Biology

  • Andrew Ward, Psychology and Peace & Conflict Studies, has been appointed to the William R. Kenan Jr. Professorship

  • Farha Ghannam, Sociology & Anthropology, has been appointed to the Eugene M. Lang Research Professorship

For Managers who arrived to campus early, Associate Professor of Philosophy Kirsta Thomason led a talk about her latest book, Naked: The Dark Side of Shame and Moral Life (Oxford University Press, February 2018).

As usual, Managers enjoyed opportunities to attend a number of campus events over the weekend, including the Friday evening opera performance of Cassandra; a climate discussion with Paul Hawken and Manuela Enos; the Dance Fall Concert; and a lecture entitled “From Civil Rights to Civil Liberties,” delivered by Justin Davis, Deputy Director, Orientation Division, Foreign Service Institute, U.S. Department of State.

Several Managers also participated in the first of three Faculty/Board dinners this year, this time hosted by Provost and Dean of the Faculty Sarah Willie-LeBreton. These dinners, building on the success of last year, are designed to bolster interaction between members of the Board and members of the faculty.


Valerie Smith, President

Salem Shuchman ’84, Chair, Board of Managers

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