The Dion Family, with Donald Dion '76, center (pink tie), his wife to his right and his mother to his left.
"A Game Changer"
The two hundred-plus people assembled in the foyer of the brand new student center heard "this is a game changer." This building provides students space "to breath, to meet, recreate, meditate, congregate, study and collaborate" (VP for Student Affairs Dawn Ellinwood). It provides "the wow factor I was looking for" (Student Association President Alexander Ieronimo ’14), and creates for us "a new sense of community"(President John Neuhauser).
Students, staff, alumni, trustees and benefactors spoke at the October 4, 2013, dedication of the Dion Family Student Center and the Quad Commons Residential Hall. This major project, conceived of by President Neuhauser and first discussed at the October 2010 meeting of the board of trustees, came to fruition after three years of work involving hundreds of designers and builders, with input from students, staff, trustees, faculty and administration.
A powerful force for advancing student formation in the Edmundite tradition
Patrick Gallivan '89, Vice President for Institutional Advancement, emceed the dedication program, and introduced The Very Rev. Michael Cronogue, SSE, Superior General of the Society of St. Edmund, who gave the invocation.
Board Chairman William Gallagher said, "This creative, aggressive and complex project" meets four needs: space for student activities, an upgrade to the existing quad dorms, creation of new residence space, and improved "curb appeal" for student recruitment. This building "allows the college to move forward in our mission of student formation in the Edmundite tradition."
Trustee Ernest Pomerleau '69, himself a builder, called the project "a game changer." It has been a 'mystical' collaborative effort, "and I've seen a lot of projects," he said. For example, he said, students would bring coffee to construction workers at 7 and 8 in the morning.
Vice President for Student Affairs, Dawn Ellinwood said the center gives students great opportunities; it is an intentional student-centered project that provides a wonderful realm for student growth - we welcome it whole heartedly.
Jesse Beck, president of the architectural firm, Freeman French Freeman, said "We were guided by Jack Neuhauser to create a new sense of community with this building."
Rare concept of linking 4 existing dorms with the new buildings
The linking of the new Dion Family Student Center with Joyce and Ryan Halls, and the linking of the new Quad Commons Residence Hall with Lyons and Alumni Halls, provides interior access to the Dion Center through all seasons for over 900 students. In Vermont winters this innovation will be appreciated.
The centralization of student life in this way is already showing success as students are populating the center from 8 a.m. to midnight. Patterns of use will continue to evolve, but the student areas are already in constant use, with students watching for their turn in the digital lounge, in study spaces and elsewhere in the new building.
Beck said the project involved some 7,000 hours of design and implementation. He said the dramatic light column that changes color and configuration is unlike anything seen on campus before. That outside light structure serves as an invitation to welcome people to come inside. The architect also referenced the great interior and exterior archways inspired by Edmundite architecture from history.
James Fayette of PC Construction Company, praised the "great partnership and teamwork" between all members of the Vermont-based building team that "resulted in this incredible building." Fayette gave special praise to Saint Michael’s own Jim Farrington, college engineer, whose project management and design skills were instrumental and essential from start to finish on this project.
This college will be grateful for one hundred years to the people who made this space possible, said President John J. Neuhauser. Students now have much needed places to meet, talk, pray, study, and to learn from each other. "We have every hope that this space will inspire and ignite great learning."
Principal Benefactor Donald R. Dion Jr. '76 makes possible Saint Michaels 1st real student center
"This quiet son of Maine made possible the Dion Family Student Center," President Neuhauser said, introducing lead donor, Don Dion. "All of us, and all who will learn and grow in this space thank you," he said.
Don Dion spoke of why he was able to make this gift to help build Saint Michael’s first real student center. No one in my family had gone to college, he said. Both his father who worked six days a week, and his mother, a nurse, who worked nights, were always saving money for their son to go to college. They "didn't have much," but their son arrived at St. Mike's at age 17, and, he said, “I had four of the best years of my life.”
"Professor Joe Amhrein got me interested in the stock market" and became one of those guys who was available to talk to,” Dion said. When I got in trouble, Don Sutton took a chance and let me stay. And Father Doherty "gave me good advice that kept me going."
Years later, after launching a successful career, and becoming a Saint Michael's trustee, Dion said he discovered that the Saint Michael’s world was not like in business - instead people are really nice here, he said. He added that, one-hundred percent of the trustees contributed to the project, and many former trustees too. “It is very rewarding that everyone contributed.”
"Jack (Neuhauser) had the vision to look to the future, when I was cautious and skeptical," Dion said. "But I was wrong, and was really glad I could do this." He said his work day goes from 5:30 a.m. till late at night, and thanked his wife for taking care of so much at home for him. "We did this for the students," he said.
To conclude, the Rev. Brian Cummings, SSE '86, blessed the building. And the two hundred-plus guests toasted the great occasion.
Donors and the rooms named for them
Dion Family Student Center
Donald Dion '76, The Dion Family Student Center
Larry and Lynn Blanford, Saint Anne's Courtyard
Ernie '69 and Dee Pomerleau, Quad Commons Sustainability Initiatives
Anthony '80 and Eileen Maginnis, Maginnis Monumental Staircase
Celine Racine Paquette, Ed.D., Paquette Conference Room
Barry D. Roy '67, Roy Event Center
Society of St. Edmund, Edmundite Solarium
Bill '58 and Liz Gorman, Gorman Vista Deck
Michael and Diane McGrath, McGrath Meeting Room
Quad Commons Residential Hall
John G. Duffy P'03, Duffy Terrace
In honor of Michael D. Samara P'08, Michael D. Samara Pathway
Jack '70 and Cathy Bergeron, Bergeron Lounge
Anonymous Honoring Gift, Fr. Raymond Doherty Lounge
Anonymous Honoring Gift, Fr. Marcel Rainville Lounge