Mr. Salisbury, Mrs. Salisbury, Katie Salisbury; members of the Board of Trustees, Faculty, Staff, Students; Directors and Very Talented Staff of the Salisbury Center Offices:
We gather together today to celebrate this marvelous renovation of Trinity Hall and to dedicate the Salisbury Center as a monument to preparing our students for their lives and careers while enhancing the student experience at the Colleges, in and around the City of Geneva and around the world.
This is not the first time that the institution’s Board of Trustees, faculty, staff and students have gathered in this beautiful part of the campus to celebrate this structure or its importance.
167 years ago, when our institution was just 15 years from its founding, a similar group assembled to lay the cornerstone for Trinity Hall. One can only imagine the excitement of those times – our nation was young, Andrew Jackson had just completed his service in the White House and his Vice President, Martin Van Buren of nearby Kinderhook, New York was elected our country’s 8th President.
President Benjamin Hale had just arrived on this campus a year before.
This sense of opportunity and newness – for our nation and this fledgling college were intertwined. President Hale said:
“We have not only laid the foundation of a building of brick and stone, but we could fain consider ourselves as assisting though in a humble way, to rear the structure of our country’s prosperity and happiness.”
Indeed, the College campus at that time was all new – and its hard to imagine what President Hale observed at the time:
“Standing upon this spot” he said, “Where there is nothing to remind us of past generations, when nothing is old, save the stately trees.”
In many ways, our celebration this afternoon records the proud history of Hobart and William Smith. From the efforts of our predecessors who planned for and created this original building – to this complete renovation and historic restoration that we dedicate today – it tells a powerful story of honor and commitment and dedication.
167 years ago – President Benjamin Hale warned of the limits of a “narrow education” and noted how this institution of higher learning would better prepare students for their lives with a broadened, liberal education.
That thread of history remains true today and this newly enhanced structure reaffirms our commitment for our third century. President Hale said at the ceremony 167 years ago:
“Every man who has received a truly thorough and liberal education at school or college becomes capable of looking with a discerning eye upon these mores of principles and becomes a watchman upon the walls of the republic.”
Our challenge in the 21st century is no less important. And while our country and these Colleges are no longer new or fledgling, our responsibility remains equally vital in this century as it was for forebears nearly 200 years ago.
That is our responsibility to prepare global citizens embued with a spirit of service and prepared to lead in their chosen careers. Responsibilities reaffirmed in HWS 2005.
We agree with President Hale’s admonition of a “narrow education” and see the Salisbury Center as our chance to provide our students with counsel on how they can build lives of meaning and productivity and personal satisfaction.
We see the Salisbury Center as our chance to provide our students with the opportunities for public service.
We see the Salisbury Center as our chance to provide students with a global perspective and deepened understanding of other peoples and cultures.
And we see the Salisbury Center as our chance to use this building as a catalyst to ignite the energies of our alumni and alumnae, parents and friends of the Colleges to work with us in advancing the purposes of this Center.
We are grateful to the Arthur Vining Davis Foundation for their assistance with this project and to Tom Melly, John Ross, and Hank Bowman who have recently established significant endowed internship funds for our students.
In 1870, Trinity Hall was utilized as a dormitory for students. The Chair of the Board of Trustees received a petition from the 16 men living in Trinity Hall. It read:
“We the students of Hobart College rooming in Trinity Hall do hereby earnestly request the Honorable Board of Trustees of said Hobart College to cause to be put up in the lower hall of said Trinity Hall inside doors, for the purpose of keeping out the cold and storms in winters; also to cause to be put up in said Hall on each floor one lantern to lighten them during the evening. As we do hereby pledge ourselves, individually and collectively to use all diligence to keep the said Trinity Hall and all its rooms in good order and free from all unnecessary changes.”
Well, as serendipity would allow --- 134 years later another Chair of the Board of Trustees answered the call for Hobart and William Smith students on this campus. And Charlie Salisbury provided a bit more than doors to keep out the cold and storms in winter and a lantern for each floor.
This remarkable gift allowed us to create a space and energy on this campus that will benefit generations of students. They will be better prepared to consider career options, better informed about the world in which they will live and better skilled at understanding the importance of civic engagement and service for the 21st century.
None of this would have been possible without Charlie Salisbury’s generosity and his commitment to the Colleges.
Ladies and Gentlemen, this important space we dedicate today has what the Psalms call a ‘goodly heritage’ rooted in the 19th century with the visionary forebears of the Colleges – to the 20th century when a young man from Baltimore, Maryland came to this campus and when that same young man chose to build upon our proud legacy and create a whole new source of pride and forward thinking experiences for our students.
Mr. Salisbury – we thank you for your unfailing commitment to your alma mater. We honor you for your dedication to our students, past, present and future. And we remain most grateful for your leadership in advancing Hobart and William Smith Colleges in this dynamic new century.
Salisbury Center at Trinity Hall Dedication
April 24, 2004