Stokes Hall Opens After Years In The Works
Newest Academic Building Represents The University’s Investment in the Liberal Arts
Published: Thursday, January 24, 2013
Updated: Friday, January 25, 2013 14:01
Last week marked the first time that Stokes Hall, Boston College’s newest academic building, opened its doors for classes. The $78 million, 183,000-square foot building is named in honor of a $22 million donation from Patrick T. Stokes, former CEO of Anheuser-Busch Companies, Inc., former chair and current member of the BC Board of Trustees, and BC ’64.
Completed last December, Stokes Hall houses the English, history, philosophy, and theology departments, the College of Arts & Sciences Honors Program, the Arts & Sciences Service Center, the Academic Advising Center, and the First Year Experience offices, as well as significant classroom space and a new Coffee Bar, and represents a noteworthy investment in the humanities at Boston College.
What would become the Stokes Hall project began in 1996, when BC first proposed three connected humanities buildings that would run along College Road from Lyons Hall to McElroy Hall, said University Spokesman Jack Dunn. The proposed building was intended, in part, to honor current University Chancellor and former University President J. Donald Monan, S.J. “Combining a new academic building—Monan Hall—with a student center that will replace McElroy Commons is rooted in the Jesuit philosophy of cura personalis, or ‘care of the whole person,’” read the April 9, 1998 issue of the Boston College Chronicle. “By siting academic, dining and co-curricular activity spaces in close proximity, administrators aim to foster faculty-student interaction outside the classroom, thereby enhancing the educational experience of Boston College students.”
BC sought approval for the construction, then termed the “Middle Campus Project,” from the Board of Aldermen of Newton beginning in 1996. While the proposal attained a majority of votes, it lacked the two-thirds supermajority necessary for approval. The University subsequently took Newton to Massachusetts land court, arguing that the city’s decision violated the Dover Amendment, a subsection of Massachusetts General Law that states, in part, “No zoning ordinance or by-law shall … prohibit, regulate or restrict the use of land or structures for religious purposes or for educational purposes on land owned or leased by the commonwealth.”
After a lengthy trial, conducted over several months in 1998, and almost two years of consideration, Court Justice Karyn F. Scheier decided in favor of BC in January of 2001. According to an account of the case on masscases.com, the judge ruled that “BC had demonstrated a ‘pressing need’ to replace ‘outdated and cramped’ facilities while the board failed to demonstrate that applying the FAR requirement to the Middle Campus generally would result in an appreciable advancement of Newton’s legitimate zoning concerns.”
“It cost the city of Newton upwards of $100,000 to defend itself, and Boston College prevailed in court,” Dunn said. “But by the time the court case was resolved, the plans for those three interconnected humanities buildings were obsolete.”
In 2004, the University purchased the land for what is now BC’s Brighton Campus from the Archdiocese of Boston, which in turn led to the design of a new plan for future construction that would integrate the Brighton land. One section of BC’s 10-year Institutional Master Plan Notification Form, submitted in 2007 and approved in 2009, listed proposals to construct, among other buildings, “Stokes Commons, an 85,000 square-foot academic facility to be used as an interim student center and dining hall, [and] a 125,000 square-foot academic facility for the humanities.”
Construction on the finalized plan for Stokes Hall began in October of 2010. According to University officials, despite variations from the original plan, the underlying intent to invest in the humanities at BC remained consistent. “It’s a wise investment for a University whose commitment to liberal arts remains unwavering,” Dunn said.
Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences (A&S) David Quigley agreed: “As the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, I’m thrilled that we’re kicking off the university’s sesquicentennial year with the opening of Stokes Hall,” he said in an email. “It reminds us all of the vital importance of the liberal arts on this campus, now and on into the future.”
“As much as anything, it was strategically designed to foster interaction between faculty and students,” Dunn said. “We took that concept of cura personalis, and how vital it is to the Jesuit experience, and we brought it to the architects so that they could help to design a building to reinforce that key component of student formation, which is faculty-student interaction. It’s also designed to foster interdisciplinary collaboration, so that the philosophers and the theologians are speaking, so that history is talking with English, so that the members of the First Year Experience are interacting with faculty and the academic advising center. That was the plan—to foster interdisciplinary collaboration within the humanities.”