Champagne, shrimp and musical performances awaited students Tuesday afternoon as they celebrated the end of the 18-month renovation of Jonathan Edwards College.
More than 300 people, including alumni, University officials, faculty and students, crowded into the college’s dining hall, filling every available seat and lining the walls, to attend the long-anticipated JE rededication ceremony. The ceremony, which also commemorates the 75th anniversary of the construction of JE and seven other residential colleges, marks the official end of the major renovations, which were originally slated for completion in August 2008.
Speeches by Master Gary Haller, incoming Master Richard Lalli MUS ’80 ’86 and Kelsey Ray Clark ’09 preceded the ribbon-cutting, which was officiated by University President Richard Levin. Receptions at four locations around JE and tours of the basement — open in full for the first time Tuesday — followed the program.
The renovation was “difficult and challenging,” Levin said during the ceremony, attributing the delays to the complex history of JE’s structure.
In interviews with the News earlier this semester, University Planner Laura Cruickshank and Samuel Carbone ARC ’94, director of project management at the Office of Facilities, pointed to a combination of complicated demolition work and a relatively inexperienced contractor as causes for the project’s delay.
“There were some difficult circumstances at JE,” Cruickshank said, “especially in terms of Weir Hall [an adjacent building that is in part used by JE] and how that was being incorporated into the project. You had demolition at JE beyond what we usually have to do.”
At the beginning of the academic year, 15 female JE juniors and seniors —dubbed the “Omni 15” — stayed at the Omni Hotel for three weeks because their rooms were not yet ready.
Although JE students received daily e-mails at the beginning of the semester updating them on the renovation process, all five students interviewed said they were not informed of the reasons behind the delays.
But despite the long wait, JE students expressed excitement and pride over the official reopening of their college. As she welcomed guests into the dining hall, JE master’s aide Maureen Gage ’10 said having a complete college was welcome after months of uncertainty about when the renovations would end.
“Besides the wood shop, the darkroom and the computer lab, everything is up and operational starting today,” Gage said.
Alyssa Reyes ’10, who led one of the many tours following the ceremony, said that when she saw the basement a week ago, the disarray raised questions that it might not be ready in time for the rededication ceremony. But the finished product has exceeded her expectations, she said.
The wood-paneled, brightly lit basement includes a gym designed with student input, multiple soundproof music rooms, a theater, a printing press and a dance studio, among other facilities.
Both the theater and the printing press were already in use as the tours came by. Students spread ink on the 100-year-old press, while Lalli and incoming Associate Master Michael Rigsby MED ’88 played the organ and viola da gamba, respectively, in the theater.
A performing arts series entitled “12 Days of Inaugural Events in the New Jonathan Edwards Theater” will run nightly from Dec. 1 to 12. Events include a harp performance by Madeleine Udell ’09, an improvisational comedy show by The Purple Crayon and a screening of the movie “Ratatouille.”