As cars carrying happy graduates and their families departed Norwich University yesterday, eager to begin celebrating the end of one era, back on campus a new era was being ushered in. Forty members of the Norwich community gathered under a tent in front of Harmon Hall Sunday afternoon to take part in a ceremonial groundbreaking for the University's new $25 million campus center, the construction of which officially began today. The building will be named the Wise Campus Center in memory of Clifford Wise, uncle and adoptive father of Norwich University Trustee Emeritus Robert Mack '64, a significant donor to the Norwich Forever! $55 million Capital Campaign, $40 million of which has been pledged to date.

Norwich University President Richard Schneider opened the ceremony by commenting on the significance of the occasion.

"I am honored and privileged to be able to kick off the groundbreaking of one of the most significant building projects on our campus to date," Schneider said. "For all of us, Norwich is our home," he went on, "but this building will be our living room. I couldn't be more excited."

At the conclusion of Schneider's address, Trustee Fred Haynes '58 took the podium and offered his comments on the campus center building project, made possible in part by the generosity of Robert Mack, a former Trustee and member of the Class of 1964.

"On behalf of the Trustees and the entire Norwich Community, I am proud to say we have one of our own making a significant contribution to where our campus is going." Haynes concluded his remarks by introducing Mack, calling him, "one of the pioneers of the HMO concept," and citing his "many acts of generosity over many, many years." Before turning over the podium, Haynes presented Mack with a compass, the symbol of the Norwich Forever! Campaign.

"This building will be used by the entire Norwich community, and on behalf of that community, I am privileged to offer to you a compass, symbolic of the direction our University is going. May it help you help guide us to our future," Haynes said.

Mack then offered his words in honor of the occasion.

"I am very proud to have gone to Norwich--proud of my classmates, of the culture, and of this right here," he said, gesturing to where the new building will ultimately stand. "This building will be named for my uncle who raised me, Cliff Wise."

Mack spoke with fondness and reverence about his adoptive father, who passed away last year. According to Mack, Cliff Wise graduated from the United States Naval Academy with an engineering degree. A sportsman and an athlete, he captained the sailing team at Annapolis, had an appreciation for horses, and taught Bob and his brother, Cliff, Jr., how to ski.

"He was a very modest man and a gentleman," Mack said. "I am very proud that he raised me."

At the conclusion of Mack's remarks, Schneider and Haynes unveiled a sign that will stand on the future site of the Wise Campus Center. The fifteen-month construction project will be finished in time for the opening of school in 2007. Designed by Perry Dean Rogers Architecture Partners, the modern, multi-use facility will house the University mail room, barbershop, and book store, on-campus dining, meeting rooms, recreational space, offices, and audio-visual screening rooms. The general contractor is E.F. Wall Associates, Inc. of Barre, Vt.

Members of Mack's family, including his brother, Cliff, were also on hand to take part in the festivities, which concluded with a ceremonial turning over of the earth and traditional champagne toast, led by the 2006-2007 Regimental Commander, Cadet Colonel Hillary Britch.