“It was a dark and stormy night.”

Well actually, it was daytime — but Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s infamous line was surely an appropriate description of the weather on the day ground was broken for Alvernia’s Campus Commons last May. 

In contrast to that somewhat ominous occasion — only eight months later — a new bright spot has been created on campus. In place of a small, cramped (most would say unremarkable), building that provided limited space for student organizations and some university life staff now stands the Campus Commons. As with the already popular PODs, student leaders and staff provided great ideas that talented architects and engineers turned into an appealing gathering place for our students.  

While the outside is striking, the inside is even more so. A two-story fitness center with all the latest exercise equipment is a highlight, as is a large dance and aerobics studio. Both commuter and resident students will also enjoy the new campus “living room” complete with a fireplace, couches and arm chairs that make it perfect for studying, meeting with friends or just relaxing.  

At a time when student organizations and clubs and key university life offices have injected considerable energy into campus life, the Commons will bring them all together under one roof. For the first time, students will have a genuine “center” for activities and for informal socializing, supported by ample technology options. And since it will be open 24/7, it will accommodate a wide variety of schedules.

Projects like this would not be possible without the help of generous donors, businesses, and our own Student Government Association. Last spring, SGA stepped forward to contribute $150,000 from its capital account to support construction of the facility.

In addition, a distinguished member of Alvernia’s Board of Trustees, Tom Martell, and his wife Marcia, parents of two recent college graduates, believed so strongly in the importance of this new facility that they issued a challenge to students’ parents. The Martells are matching (dollar-for-dollar) up to $50,000 in gifts to support the Campus Commons.  Alvernia’s parents, as of mid-December, have already exceeded this goal! And the Martell Challenge is in addition to a major financial commitment the couple has already made to the project. Their generosity is a reminder that today, as in years past, respected community leaders have been essential contributors to Alvernia’s growth and development. 

The opening of the Campus Commons completes the transformation of the center of campus, begun as a result of the 2007 Strategic and Campus Master Plans. It’s hard now to picture what the university looked like just a few short years ago when a parking lot (not a beautiful green quad) was situated in the center of campus.  

Now surrounding the quad is an expanded dining hall, remodeled town houses, and most importantly a soon-to-be completely renovated Bernardine Hall (more on that below!). With the remodeling and expansion of Francis Hall, we have greatly improved and expanded facilities to support fine and performing arts programs. We now have attractive options for outdoor recreation and athletics, and the creation of the Founders Village residences has provided ample appealing housing for sophomores, juniors and seniors. (Some exciting plans are also emerging for the near-by Crusader Café.) 

The Francis Hall and Bernardine projects complete the important priorities of the Teaching and Learning Plan developed by faculty and academic administrators in 2009. This summer, the last stage of Bernardine’s complete renovation, will create faculty office suites, specialty labs for our expanding Occupational Therapy program, and some upgraded classrooms for general use. The transformation of Bernardine Hall is a tribute to excellent planning by faculty and administrators and parallels the gains made by the addition of the O’Pake Science and Upland Centers. 

As always, the new year will bring new and enhanced academic offerings. The faculty has developed and approved a health sciences major, a program which welcomes its first students this semester, and a new minor in Community and Environmental Sustainability. And just approved by the Board of Trustees in December is a doctorate of physical therapy program that we expect will enroll its first students in fall 2014.  

2013 will undoubtedly be filled with excitement and thoughts of the future . . .  especially for those students graduating in May. To those seniors, and to all of our students, Happy New Year! 

Peace and all good,

Tom Flynn


Flynn Files