President's Remarks

President's Remarks at the Library Dedication of the Peter H. Armacost Library
4:00 pm, Friday, February 18, 2005
Fox Hall

The primary text of Western Culture is called "The Bible," from the Greek "biblia," meaning books. "Biblia" is also the root word for "bibliography" and the French "bibliotheque" meaning library. Our Bible is made up of books - the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, and so forth - the books of the Book.1

The Arabic word "alcoran," known to us as the Koran, means "the reading," or "recitation," while the Hebrew Torah means "the law," or instruction. On the absolute primacy of words and texts, at least, even these seemingly antagonistic religious perspectives wholeheartedly agree. These cultures all believe and tell their young that truth is found where God is found, and, in fact, even the Self is found - in words, in books. The library as the house of books is therefore logically the heart of any institution devoted, as this College is, to the education of the moral imagination.

Historically, libraries have served not just as places for collection and study, or as places of casual repose or quiet reflection for those with time on their hands, but as citadels defending literacy and the democratic values born in the Athens of Socrates and Thucydides. When we think of libraries, we should remember that had it not been for those monastic collections on the stony, windswept hills of Ireland, where small bands of monks kept literacy alive after the fall of the Roman Empire, the glory that was Greece simply would not have survived. Those devoted monks, painstakingly copying and illustrating the Vulgate, were at the time the sole protectors of the flames of knowledge, and of the virtues of learning, reading and writing. 2

This library has been designed to serve not simply as a repository and as a citadel - though those, too - but as a catalyst to aid and support the education of undergraduate students in the 21st century. The design of the Peter H. Armacost Library reflects two great shifts in contemporary pedagogy: first, the recognition that the new world of information technology has changed forever what libraries can be and must be if they are to be an effective part of a modern education; and second, the recognition that - increasingly understood in American business over the past two decades, but well recognized by Japanese businesses and the liberal arts college for generations - a truly effective institution thrives on the work of small teams and on their collaborative learning.

The architectural responses of this library to the demands of contemporary pedagogy include these six design principles:

  1. Books and information technology are everywhere integrated; the library is both wired everywhere and wireless everywhere, as is the outside space around it.
  2. The library promotes collaborative learning through the provision of small and large study rooms, large tables, and lounge space;
  3. It promotes student connectivity with faculty and staff throughout the campus by virtue of its integrated information technology circuitry;
  4. It honors and celebrates by its very location and its unique outdoor space the Florida landscape and the natural environment;
  5. It responds to and respects the way students like to study, with soft furniture, lounges, abundant windows, various sizes of study spaces, bright, warm colors, and omnipresent access to the Internet;
  6. It is located at precisely the right place on campus, at the very nexus of student residential life and the confluence of academic and student life facilities, programs and staff.
    (We wrestled long and hard about where to locate this library until we finally figured out that this was the obvious place. The only person to whom this location had been immediately obvious was my wife - who identified where the library ought to go on our first hike across campus with our dog, Emma. Her recommendation, which I ignored while my experts and I took more than a year to come to the same conclusion, is now part of our family lore, as in, "Go ahead and study this to death if you want to, but if you'd listen to me you'd save yourself a lot of time and money!") We believe we have built a library that enhances and enriches what Eckerd College has always done - which is provide the finest possible personal environment for learning.

So many heroes have made this possible, and many of them are here. In fact, never has Eckerd College had so many of its heroes in the same place at the same time:

Please stand when I call your name:

David Henderson, director of the library, has kept this process going since the beginning: It is he who has insured that the learning needs of students were always foremost;

The Library Staff, working with David, have juggled the thousands of details of imagining a new library while running the old one; they also gave up their Christmas holiday vacation to move the collection from the old library to the new;

Dave Pawlowski and his Information Technology team have worked around the clock to make this library the information and educational technology hub of the entire campus and a superior technological center;

The Biltmore Construction team has done an extraordinary job on this facility. One of our trustees, Alan Mossberg, who has built buildings all over the globe, told me that he has never seen a building built as well as this one. Biltmore is headed by Ed Parker, President. Ed leads a business founded by his father that has developed a reputation of excellence in construction. Biltmore's work here sets a new level of construction excellence and sets a new standard for all new buildings on the campus.

Travis Parker, The Construction Project Manager. Travis is the third generation of the Parker family to excel in the construction business. Travis had the principal responsibility for the selection of the many contractors and vendors who would construct the building within the budget and to the standards expected. Travis deserves special recognition for delivering the building ahead of schedule and within the budget.

Andy Mannira, Construction Supervisor. As a long time employee of Biltmore, Andy was responsible for setting and controlling the construction schedule and for ensuring that the contractors and vendors all did their work right and on time. Andy deserves special recognition for his leadership in maintaining a safe and clean construction site that resulted in no significant injuries or any safety violations during the two years of construction.

Our Architects

Adam Gross, President, and Architect led the Baltimore firm of Ayers/Saint/Gross and its design team to develop a building style that is compatible with the campus, architecturally forward looking, and done in a manner that sets a new level of excellence for new buildings at Eckerd.

Sandra Vicchio, Architect, led the effort to develop and refine the building program so that it worked within the program statement, our vision for Eckerd's future, and the budget. She also led the effort, along with designer Connie Wittich, of Metropolitan Studio of Monkton, Maryland, and Shar McKenna to select and recommend the outstanding furnishings for the library and offices;

Mike Barber, Architect, played a major role in developing solutions and details of the design that would make it constructible.

Ayers/Saint/Gross is the preeminent campus master planning firm in the United States, and perhaps the world. They are one of the great partners in Eckerd College's ambitious journey. Ayers/Saint/Gross partnered with the St. Petersburg firm, Canerday Belfsky and Arroyo, which served as the architects of record and were responsible for all aspects of the design and for developing the details that form the linkage between architecture and construction. The firm is headed by Charlie Canerday, who was responsible for keeping the design effort within the budget and resolving all architectural questions during construction. Charlie has been "the solid hand on the tiller" throughout this project and has become a vitally important part of the Eckerd College facilities team.

Canerday, Ayers/Saint/Gross, and Biltmore represent professionalism at its very best, and all of us at Eckerd College are grateful for your work and your teamwork.

And all of these folks were coordinated and supported and herded like cats by Bill McKenna, Project Manager and Campus Facilities Czar, who is so ably and graciously aided by his wonderful wife and business partner, Shar. Bill reminds me from time to time of Eisenhower's Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, of whom Winston Churchill said, "He's the only bull I know who carries his China shop around with him!" Bill is a great friend, and a guy who loves Eckerd College and gets things done - and this library, like a lot of our projects here in the past three years, got done - on time, on budget, and in all its magnificence, because of Bill. Thank you Bill, and thank you, Shar.

There were really two key players in planning this library. The primary person was Ed Stevens, who during his tenure at the College was at one time or another Professor of Psychology, Director of Institutional Research, Special Assistant to the President, Director of Planning and Analytical Studies, Professor of Information Systems, Director of Information Technology Services, and ... Director of Library Services. As the Library Director, Ed drafted the initial program statement for a new library, a statement that anticipated the central role of information technology. The other key person, conceptually, was Miles Collier, who from the beginning, pressed for a technologically sophisticated facility.

In the "naming of the rooms" ribbon-cutting ceremonies held just previously inside the library, we recognized a long roster of donors and supporters of the College and this new facility. While I will not repeat those recognitions here, I do want to point out that those donors are recognized in your program, and we are grateful to them.

We were able to build this library because we had the support of three of the most extraordinary men in the history of Florida: First, I would like to express appreciation to Congressman C. W. Bill Young, the finest civil servant I know, a man who has probably done more for Tampa Bay than any other person, and who has done more to provide support to this College in the past three years that I can recount. With his help, this campus has an educational technology infrastructure in this library which is connected to every classroom and office throughout the campus. With his help, every classroom on campus is wired and outfitted for teaching and learning. With his help, we have constructed new recreational and athletic facilities to support our students and our summer programs for at-risk children in our area. With his help, we have a rejuvenated sense of mission and momentum at Eckerd College. Congressman Young had hoped to be with us today, but Ambassador Sembler called him to Italy on matters of State. We are joined by his most able home office director, and our friend Mr. George Cretekos.

Second, I would like to recognize Mrs. Ruth Eckerd and ask all of you to join me in thanking, once more, the Eckerd family for all they have done for the College which bears their name.

Finally, over half of the cost of this library was borne by a gift from John and Rosemary Galbraith, who remain the College's most generous donors. Their gifts include Campus Entrance Beautification; endowment to support the Bermuda Biological Station for Research; the Chapel Carillon; and primary support for Galbraith Marine Science Laboratory, the Franklin-Templeton Building and the Hough Center. John served as Chairman of the College's Board of Trustees from 1990 to 1992, and his support of the College has been simply indispensable. John and Rosemary, I hope you believe we have used your gift wisely, and I hope you luxuriate in the knowledge of the thousands of men and women, young and old, students and teachers, who will benefit from your investments in Eckerd College, of which this library is the largest. Please welcome to the podium and join me in thanking John and Rosemary Galbraith.

Finally, it is, for the most part, not necessary to introduce the third president of Eckerd College, who served this institution with heart and soul for twenty-three challenging years, except to say this: I have never spoken to an Eckerd alumnus or alumna who had anything but positives to say about their time here as students and about the quality of education they received here. I have also learned in my short tenure at Eckerd of the quality of the educational enterprise here. As president of this College for exactly half its existence, much of the credit for this must go to you, Peter. That must make you proud, and it should. It is testimony to your work here and to the progress made here during your tenure, that the Eckerd College Board of Trustees has authorized me, upon recommendation of the donors, to dedicate this library as the Peter H. Armacost Library. Please join me in welcoming Dr. Peter Armacost to the podium.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Peter H. Armacost Library is a pantheon of heroes of Eckerd College. It is the work of heroes; it is supported by the gifts of heroes. Its rooms bear the names of heroes, including the first and second president as well as others important to the history of our College.

Winston Churchill said, "We shape our buildings, and thereafter they shape us." The beauty and intelligence of this building, and the history of the College now imbedded in it, will no doubt help shape all who use it to do great deeds in noble causes.

After the hymn and benediction, please come into the library and see, and feel, and remember, and find - yourself. Thank you for your support of Eckerd College.

 

1 John Barth,"Browsing" New Literary House Press, 2004.
2 James F. Jones, "Of Schools on Hills Aegean, Irish, and Otherwise" Inaugural Address at Trinity College, Hartford, CT, October 2004.