A wise investment © Aug. 3, 2007 Norwich University Office of Communications

At 71,420 square feet, the new Wise Campus Center is now the largest part of a sweeping transformation of the Norwich campus.

The size of the University's residential student population has more than doubled since 1955, when Harmon Hall—the focal point for student life and activities, was built.

In that time expectations of campus facilities have changed as well. “Students today look for good public spaces where they can hang out,” said University President Richard Schneider, “and we've had an inadequate space for decades.”

Photo of the Wise Campus Center interior

photo by Jay EricsonThe interior of Norwich’s new Wise Campus Center.

The challenge was to incorporate the needs of a growing student population into a facility that fit into the architectural landscape of the campus. There was also the “Wow!” factor to contend with. “We wanted the students' first reaction to be, ‘Wow! Norwich does it right,’” said Dave Magida, the University's chief administrative officer.

So in the fall of 2004, a Boston–based, nationally known architectural firm, Perry Dean Rogers Partners, was selected to work on conceptual designs for renovations and additions to Harmon Hall.

Once studies were completed and input from the Norwich community was collected and considered, construction began May 15, 2006, the day after Commencement ceremonies. In the fifteen months that followed, roughly 46,800 square feet of the building was renovated, 10,250 square feet was demolished, and about 24,500 square feet was added to create the three-level structure.

Environmental considerations figured heavily into all aspects of the project. The obvious steps of installing energy efficient lighting and double paned, low–e windows were taken. But some not so obvious steps were made as well.

A state–of–the–art pulper was installed to replace the disposals in the kitchen. The device uses less water and produces a compost-ready material out of its kitchen waste. Also, virtually all of the materials from the demolition of Harmon Hall were recycled or reused.

In the upcoming weeks, students, staff and faculty members will be able to walk into a modern campus center, dominated by a glass jewel box nested in the base of the old brick building.

The center is a soaring, dramatic space outfitted with cherry wood paneling, granite countertops, indoor and outdoor fireplaces and a double–height winter garden. The building also houses several multi-purpose meeting rooms and lounges with state of the art audio-visuals systems, and an enlarged book store, snack bar and pub on the ground floor.

The $25–million project was funded from three sources: the Norwich Forever! fundraising campaign, established deferred maintenance accounts and borrowing.

The center is named in honor of Cliff Wise, uncle of Norwich Trustee Emeritus Robert Mack ’64. Mack pledged $4 million to the project, the largest single gift ever from a living Norwich alumnus.

“The Wise Center will become the social hub for the whole University,” Schneider said. “It will give us a sense of community we haven’t had for a long time.”