This summer, when Thomas Aquinas College begins construction on its second classroom building, St. Gladys Hall , it will also refurbish its first, St. Augustine Hall, with the assistance of a $600,000 grant from the E. L. Wiegand Foundation of Reno, Nevada.
“The E. L. Wiegand Foundation has generously supported the College throughout the years, equipping St. Bernardine of Siena Library and Albertus Magnus Science Hall, and most recently furnishing Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel,” says Thomas Aquinas College President Michael F. McLean. “This latest grant is the Foundation’s largest gift to date, and it will allow us to greatly enhance both the beauty and the functionality of St. Augustine Hall.”
Dedicated in 1990, St. Augustine Hall has hosted the vast majority of classes at Thomas Aquinas College for more than 20 years. It is where new students have participated in their first freshman seminars, and where, four years later, they have defended their Senior Theses. For hundreds of alumni, the building evokes memories of innumerable hours of Socratic discussions, demonstrating Euclidean propositions, and delving into the profound themes contained within the great books.
After two decades of constant use, St. Augustine Hall is due for some renovations. The E. L. Wiegand Foundation’s grant will provide new carpeting and a modernized heating and cooling system that is quieter and more efficient. The grant will also provide a pedestal for the statue of the building’s patron, St. Augustine, and the lowering of the building’s very high ceilings, which have proved detrimental to classroom acoustics and energy costs.
Because the beauty of a building is a visible sign of the dignity of the activity that takes place inside it, the Foundation’s grant will also replace the Hall’s utilitarian light fixtures with elegant wall sconces and ceiling chandeliers. It will likewise provide for the installation of wooden wainscoting in the corridors that will coordinate with the new, paneled classroom doors. The five classrooms that still use temporary folding tables for class discussions will have new, custom-made tables like those in the rest of the building, as well as sturdy bookcases that contain complete collections of the great books.
Finally, in response to years of student pleading, the Wiegand Foundation grant will include the replacement of the building’s current windows, which do not open, with new ones that do. The new windows will block more than 90 percent of ultraviolet and infrared radiation in sunlight, with a corresponding reduction in energy expenses.
The renovation of St. Augustine Hall, which is set to begin immediately after Commencement, will be completed shortly before the start of the new academic year in August. “By renovating St. Augustine Hall at the same time as we begin construction on St. Gladys Hall, we will be able to make the most efficient use of time and resources,” says Dr. McLean. “These renovations will make our original classroom building as beautiful as the new one across the quadrangle, adding to the consistency and order of the campus.”
“When all the work is done, we will have two classroom buildings that will help to ennoble the mind and to enrich the soul of every student blessed to study within them,” adds Dr. McLean. “We are deeply grateful to the E. L. Wiegand Foundation for this timely and important grant.”
Posted: January 31, 2013