Open-house at the campus center

Stacey Day

After a long and anxious waiting period, Lawrence students returned to campus this year to discover a fully functional, LEED certified, brand-spanking-new campus center adjoining Sage Hall, overlooking the Fox River.
Although the new Warch Campus Center was fully operational when students first arrived, the opening ceremony was delayed until the first full weekend of the school year, Sept. 18-20, in what Jill Beck termed “a weekend of celebrations.”
The festivities began at 5 p.m. Friday, with a performance by the Sambistas on the patio in front of the building, followed by brief addresses from Jeff Riester ’70 and Don Koskinen ’50, both trustees of Lawrence University.
Finally, Jill Beck took the podium and invited Richard Warch, former president of Lawrence and one of the namesakes for the imposing edifice, to assist in unveiling his own portrait, which now hangs permanently at the top of the grand staircase in the campus center.
Margot Warch prefaced her husband’s address by reiterating: “Thank you all for your enthusiasm for this project and thanks in particular to the anonymous donor for the magnificent gift that made this all possible.”
Finally, Richard Warch himself took the stand, calling the new campus center “way beyond nice.” He joked about his continuing belief in “the primacy of ideas over buildings, though I must confess this building is giving me some second thoughts.”
Finally, the audience was released to go explore the $35 million, 107,000-square-foot campus center at will, enjoying such features as the alumni art show and reception on the third floor, the new grill and café, and the magnificent Andrew Commons below. There were meet and greets with both Rik and Margot Warch, as well as with the new food service providers, Bon Appétit.
Student performance groups entertained our visitors with dancing, singing, ninjitsu and a pep band performance Saturday, following the chaotic activities fair the night before, in which all the student groups hosted booths to vie for new members and generate interest in their organizations.
Throughout the weekend there were showings of movies — either made by Lawrence students and alumni, scored by them or starring them — in the new cinema on the second floor of Andrew Commons.
Most prominent of these perhaps was an open showing of student videos that all had as their theme “A Sustainable Lawrence.” This showing highlighted one of the greatest attributes of the new campus center: Its role as a monument to Lawrence’s efforts to go green.
The Warch Campus Center is covered with “green roofs,” and Bon Appétit has vowed to work hard in obtaining local, fresh and sustainably grown food for students. Lawrence has applied for a LEED Gold Certification and is hopeful of attaining this new honor.
As Vice President for Enrollment Steve Syverson pointed out, the new campus center is also helping us appreciate our natural surroundings with its huge windows and epic views: “The Fox river used to be the backside of campus, but we are taking advantage of the river now in a truly spectacular way.