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Steers Center Opens Its Doors and Brings the Canterbury Community Together

Kelly Slonaker

On Friday, November 13, and Saturday, November 14, the Steers Center officially opened on campus to the elation of the entire Canterbury community. The project has been years in the making, with great anticipation and excitement growing right along with the building itself. The Steers Center was conceptualized in early 2017 by students who asked for a “space to be together” to enhance their Canterbury experience. That same summer, the Board of Trustees and School leadership devoted many hours to planning and envisioning a new campus facility. Fundraising commenced in 2018, construction began in the summer of 2019, and the official groundbreaking was celebrated that October. The journey of the Steers Center has become a symbol of the School’s ethos and its future: one of innovative learning, values, and community.

Faculty and staff had the opportunity to take a first look at the completed building on Friday morning, and their eagerness for being able to offer classes and programs in the new, stunning space was palpable. Rob Roffe, Director of Academic Technology and Innovation, shared, “I'm truly looking forward to working and teaching in the Steers Center. It will allow me to reimagine the way I approach the classes I've been teaching for years as well as provide significant opportunities for new classes such as Design Thinking and Entrepreneurship & Emerging Enterprises. Most of all, giving students an opportunity to make and create in a facility that encourages out-of-the-box thinking and active learning will make an already outstanding Canterbury experience even more extraordinary.”

The juxtaposition of the Steers Center’s two most significant programmatic spaces—the Innovation & Design Lab and the D’Amour Center for Faith, Service and Justice—underscores Canterbury’s mission and commitment to helping students develop as both critical thinkers and ethical leaders and to providing the kind of education they will need to lead successful and impactful lives. Tracy Garcia-LaVigne, Director of the D’Amour Center for Faith, Service and Justice, shared her gratitude for the location and prominence of the new space: “Looking out the windows of the D'Amour Center, it draws you into the heart of the beauty of our surroundings, accentuating the peacefulness and grace of the Chapel of Our Lady, the mountains surrounding us, and our incredible sunsets. The centrality of the location, the inspirational views, the flexibility and open space, all will allow us to open up our programming in ways we had previously only dreamed of creating. We are grateful beyond measure to share the D’Amour Center with our students and all that it will offer in adding to the depth and breadth of our faith, service, and justice initiatives—right here in the center of our campus.”

Sixth Form student leaders previewed the building on Friday afternoon, and the entire student body was brought through for tours the following day. Head of School Rachel Stone and administrators provided students with an orientation to the building, sharing the details and programming for each space as well as the building’s powerful story of philanthropy. Students learned that contributions from trustees, alumni, parents, grandparents, faculty, staff, and foundations fully funded the $17 million hilltop projects, which includes the new Wallace Mall with walking paths and terraced lawns between the Chapel of Our Lady and the Steers Center. Even more so, students came to understand how they will help honor and steward the meaningful intent behind every donor’s gift by fully embracing the opportunities that each space in the Steers Center provides. 

As students took their first steps inside, they were astounded by the Commons—an expansive student center featuring a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows—where the entire community will gather and strengthen the relationships that are formed on the hilltop. From there, they explored the new Innovation & Design and Coleman Digital Media Labs, spaces that will allow them to expand their intellectual curiosities and develop problem-solving, design-thinking, and digital literacy skills. On the floor above, students discovered the D’Amour Center for Faith, Service and Justice, which will become their new hub for community service, social justice advocacy, and campus ministry activities—a place where they will put their faith, values, and leadership into action. As they came upon two new interdisciplinary classrooms, students immediately began to imagine themselves learning, discussing, and actively engaging in each of the highly flexible spaces. And as they continued to look around every corner and in every room, students toured Student Life and Technology offices, day student lockers, a café, and a new school store. 

The reactions of awe and joy filled the 22,000-square-foot building as the community took in every aspect of the new space. Sixth Form Council member and Boarding Proctor Sean Quaye ’21 described seeing the space for the first time: “Just the sheer excitement of finally stepping inside the long-awaited Steers Center was an experience in itself. The details and architecture of the building are breathtaking. I cannot wait to see what more the Steers Center will offer Canterbury and its students and the many fantastic experiences that are to come!”

Sixth Form Council member and Day Student proctor Katherine Delamere ’21 is eager to spend time during—and in between—class in the new space: “When I first saw the building, I was overwhelmed with how beautiful it is. I immediately knew that it would be an amazing place for learning, activities, and community-building as a school.” She continued, “I'm thrilled to be able to spend time here and take advantage of every opportunity, from academics and service projects to snacks at the café and shopping at the new school store! There are so many possibilities, and I just know that this space will be a key center for connections, creativity, and community at Canterbury.”

In the last week on campus before Thanksgiving break and the shift to remote learning, classes will begin to meet in the new Steers Center spaces. Clubs and affinity groups will meet in the evenings, along with dorm nights and Form activities that will let students soak in how their daily experiences will soon be transformed at the School.  

As the exhilarating days came to a close, Head of School Rachel Stone shared her gratitude for the insight, collaboration, and generosity of all those who brought the Steers Center to fruition—from the architects at the S/L/A/M Collaborative and the team at Burlington Construction to the Board of Trustees, donors, and members of the School community—and particularly Trustees Lauren and Bob Steers ’71, P ’11 for their exceptional commitment to the project and the School. “From when the first construction vehicles pulled up, to now having this magnificent, finished space, it has been inspiring to see this building—and the spirit of our community—come together. We are deeply grateful to all involved and especially to Lauren and Bob Steers for their vision and dedication to creating a space that is truly about and for our students. We cannot wait to bring our whole community together here in the months and years to come.”

The School plans to hold an official ribbon-cutting ceremony in the spring of 2021 when it is able to bring members of the extended Canterbury family together to celebrate.

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