Skip to main content

James Hormel-Michael Nguyen Intercultural Center Gift Announcement

Parrish Parlors, Parrish Hall, Swarthmore College

Monday, September 26, 2016


Good afternoon, everyone. When most people hear the words “Swarthmore College,” the first thing that comes to mind is usually the quality of the education young people receive here. We are fiercely proud of that association. But if we are to be fully true to our mission, we must also recognize how important it is to provide our students with opportunities to learn, to develop, and to grow in ways that no classroom experience—no matter how excellent—can provide.  We need to think in terms of a Swarthmore College EXPERIENCE, one that goes well beyond a classroom education and one that celebrates the diverse ways in which we each encounter the College.

Swarthmore students, are, first and foremost, scholars. But they are also singers and dancers, journalists, athletes, artists, and activists devoted to one or more activity or cause.  They display a wide range of talents, interests, and passions. We want to offer them plenty of opportunities to pursue their varied interests and to encounter one another more regularly and spontaneously.

In recent years we have begun to think in new ways about the importance of space. We’ve been considering the best use of the spaces we have on our campus, with an eye towards enhancing the quality of students’ lives while they are here. The visioning exercise we began over the summer is a recent and significant part of that process.

By and large, up to now our students have pursued their special interests in their own spaces—in silos if you will. To cite just one example, we have nearly a dozen active religious or spiritual life groups on campus serving well over a quarter of the student body. But their location in Bond Hall isolates them from other student groups.

Our students need—and have requested—a central gathering place—where together they can celebrate individual differences, and experience a sense of common purpose or unity.

It gives me great pleasure to announce today that thanks to a major gift, students will soon have such a gathering place. Today I am delighted to announce the wonderful news that Manager James C. Hormel and his partner, Michael Nguyen, have committed $4.3 million for a major renovation resulting in the creation of the James Hormel-Michael Nguyen Intercultural Center at Sproul Hall.

The Hormel-Nguyen Intercultural Center will house the Intercultural Center, the Interfaith Office, and the Office of International Programs in dedicated spaces.  But there will also be dynamic shared areas designed to promote creative collaboration. In addition to hosting events and activities, this will be a space for informal gatherings and spontaneous, casual conversation. Plans are still emerging for the existing IC space and will include flexible space for IC student group use, meetings, and programs that will complement the new space in Sproul.

While plans are not fully formed, we know that the more than century-old telescope in Sproul will remain. Indeed, part of the goal for the renovation will be to link its defining historical features with new spaces to meet the needs of today’s students.

The vision for reimagining Sproul began with the modest goal of providing a bigger ADA-compliant home for the Intercultural Center. We were able to get to the point where we are today because of Jim Hormel’s and Michael Nguyen’s desire to create a space where students might be able to collaborate across their differences. 

While they could not be with us today, please join me in expressing our profound gratitude to Jim Hormel and to Michael Nguyen for their generous contribution to the life and mission of Swarthmore College. We look forward to celebrating this transformational gift with both of them on campus in December.