by MaryAlice Bitts-Jackson
Excitement ran high during a Sept. 23 ceremony at the Historic President’s House. The afternoon event featured brief remarks by representatives of Dickinson leadership, the student body, the alumni council and alumni donors whose generosity powers the renovation of the historic structure into the John M. Paz ’78 Alumni & Family Center. A ceremonial groundbreaking with golden-painted shovels completed the celebration.
“What a joyous day here at Dickinson College,” declared President John E. Jones III ’77, P’11, who was inaugurated as the college's 30th president the following day. “This space represents our community like never before. … We are indeed welcoming in a new era at Dickinson.”
Home to 14 Dickinson presidents since the college purchased the building in 1889, the Historic President’s House has served as a gathering space for the Dickinson community—and has hosted innumerable distinguished guests—for more than a century. It remained a presidential residence until 2016, when the college acquired an updated home to serve as the president's residence.
Located at the corner of West and High streets, this public-facing building is one of two history-steeped college buildings to greet visitors who approach the college from the direction of the town square. Renovation to the grounds and a new stone terrace and facade will create a first impression that’s in synch with the college’s world-class offerings. Interior renovations will set the stage for a memorable welcome, both for those who visit the college for the first time and those who return to reconnect with their alma mater and those they’ve met through it.
All of these renovations, and all future upkeep, of the Alumni & Family Center, are funded entirely by donations. The lead donor is John M. Paz ’78.
Students will be able to network, virtually and in person, with alumni and attend career information sessions and presentations by alumni and parent experts. Alumni and students will also attend fireside chats with senior leadership and faculty. After they graduate, students will be invited to stop by the center during campus visits, such as during Alumni Weekend and Homecoming & Family Weekend. Special lifelong-learning events for and by alumni will also be held in the state-of-the-art meeting rooms and multipurpose interactive spaces on the first floor. Suites for visiting families and alumni will be created upstairs.
Bernadette McFadden Stout '07, president of the Alumni Council, reflected on the “enormous opportunities” the center will create for the college’s 24,000 alumni, including special lifelong-learning events, information sessions to update alumni on the latest news at the college and informal small-group reunions. Sophie Asbell ’24, whose father and grandfather graduated from Dickinson, along with several other members of her extended family, reflected on the new ways that the entire extended Dickinson community will connect through the center.
“The pandemic showed us the importance of connection, and for many years, Dickinson has been all about making connections,” the international business & management major said. “This Alumni & Family Center will reengage alumni … and reinforce our understanding that we are Dickinsonians for life.”
Carlo Robustelli, vice president for college advancement, thanked the alumni and friends of the college whose gifts have made this ambitious project a possibility—especially Paz, for whom the center is named. Paz himself recounted how he learned about the opportunity to take the lead on funding the renovation project and delivered heartfelt remarks about his wishes for the college’s future.
“I’m thrilled that I’m fortunate enough to be able to do something this wonderful for the school that did so much for me,” he said.
“You’ll have opportunities to make your own mark on this project,” Jones assured the alumni who’d gathered for the Alumni Weekend ceremony. “I hope to see you next year for the grand opening of this beautiful and historic structure.”
Published September 25, 2022