New "Campus Crossroads" Gets a Name …. The Elizabeth and Stanford N. Phelps '52 Academy Center
September 18, 2006
The Academy trustees have named the center, which opened last spring, in honor of Betsy and Stan Phelps. Last Saturday, a warm and cloudless day, the dedication ceremony took place in front of the new building. The Phelpses – longtime benefactors of the Academy, whose philanthropy revolutionized Exeter through the Phelps Science Center, gave athletes the much needed Phelps Stadium, added beauty through renovations to Phillips Church and continues to assist students with scholarship aid – were able to experience in person the dynamism created by the new building. Joining the academy community were Phelps family and friends, who came to celebrate the building dedication and the couple's 50th wedding anniversary.
Stanford Phelps, in his remarks to the crowd of nearly 300 people, underscored the importance of the building to life at Exeter. "The faculty and students of Exeter will always be the brightest future and the soundest foundation of the school." Speaking directly to students, he added, "The Phelps Academy Center will allow you to strengthen ties with one another and deepen your relationships with your teachers."
Anyone visiting Exeter's campus in the past five months has noticed the building's impact on Exeter life. Poised in mid-campus behind the Academy Building and facing the Phelps Science Center across Tan Lane, the Phelps Academy Center draws in students, faculty, parents, staff and virtually anyone who comes to Exeter. It's a true crossroads – the "It" building on campus.
The building – which measures almost 50,000 square feet – was designed from day one with student, faculty and staff involvement. A major objective was to build a center that supports and encourages student-student and student-adult interaction.
"I have heard the Academy Center described as the campus living room," said Principal Ty Tingley at the dedication, "a neighborhood gathering place—the kind of place where everybody is welcome and encouraged to take part in the business of being a community." Tingley continued, "What does this mean for Exeter? It means a chance to expand upon the opportunities for connection that existed before. Exeter has always sought to bring together a diverse group of people and help them forge lasting connections in classrooms and dormitories and on playing fields. What the Phelps Academy Center offers us now is a new opportunity to expand upon these connections in a central place that belongs to everybody."
Students have responded to the Phelps Academy Center with joy. On a typical day, you see and hear students mingling, doing homework together, composing the Exonian front page, playing Mah Jong, practicing musical instruments, picking up mail and chatting over tables at the Grill or in front of the fireplace.
Tex '07, head of the Student Council, spoke on behalf of the students at the ceremony. "Although I suppose all of us were dimly aware of the unifying effect it might have, this building has had a far greater impact than many of us expected," he said. "It didn’t take long for the Phelps Academy Center to become central to the life of every student here." Tex went on to tell a personal story of how the building has "altered the pattern and rhythm of life at Exeter." "Last spring, I was in the Phelps Academy Center with a few friends and nothing to do. Instead of just sitting around, we got up to wander the building. In the course of our wanderings, we came across a room full of students, all of them laughing hysterically. It turned out to be the Chinese Student Organization, and they were hosting a game of Jeopardy! that was all about Chinese culture, history and current events. Quickly we were split into teams, and I was drawing on what little knowledge of China I had to contribute. Not only was I enjoying myself immensely, and learning a lot in the process, but I was meeting all sorts of new people. Were it not for this building, I would never have gone to that meeting."
In the close of his remarks, Tingley thanked "all the donors who made this building possible and the partnerships that have made it a reality." He added, "Two years ago we launched The Exeter Initiatives campaign. Building an Academy Center was a key component of the Community Initiatives. It is truly wonderful to be celebrating its completion today."