Colgate University broke ground Friday, Sept. 30, to celebrate the start of construction on the Benton Center for Creativity and Innovation, an anchor of the new Middle Campus, made possible through a $25 million gift from Daniel C. Benton ’80, H’10, P’10.
Trustees, faculty, staff, and administrators gathered together on Whitnall Field to hear from President Brian W. Casey, Provost and Dean of the Faculty Lesleigh Cushing, Board of Trustees Chair Michael Herling ’79, P’08,’09,’12, and Benton himself before crossing Lally Lane to the center’s future home for the ceremony.
“Today, we break ground on a building that will allow our students to interweave knowledge from the humanities and the arts, the natural sciences and social science,” said Cushing.
For Cushing and colleagues across campus, Benton Center is the answer to a puzzle, repeatedly placed before the Colgate community through the decades — most recently after a faculty review of arts programming and facilities in 2016: How should Colgate seize a leadership role in thinking about the arts?
Furthermore, they asked, “What would it mean for us to stop thinking about needing a performance space and begin thinking about all of the creative processes that come together to result in a performance?”
Benton, a long-time supporter of the University’s most ambitious initiatives, is known for a love of puzzles, and he joined in wrestling with the questions. “You can always tell when Dan is interested in something,” said President Brian W. Casey. “There is a level of discernment and curiosity. He wants to break things down and test propositions. He goes from perception and curiosity to elegance, bravery, and boldness. All of a sudden he says, ‘Yes, that’s an elegant idea.’”
In 2019, after substantial work carried out through campus governance structures, the University launched its Third-Century Plan, which included the promise of a new and intentional vision for Middle Campus — including a seat for creativity and innovation. The puzzle pieces fit together here, with the elegance Benton desired, in the space between James C. Colgate Hall and the Dana Arts Center. In accordance with the Plan, a new quadrangle will arise, with the Benton Center as its first new facility.
The Benton Center acknowledges the reality that arts and technology are, in Cushing’s words, “increasingly collaborative and multimodal.” The integration of disciplines within the center, she said, “will allow students to develop fluency in the newest phenomena as well as to develop, through our media archeology lab, familiarity with the precursors of current technologies.”
Cushing thanked Benton for more than his philanthropy, which advances the University’s $1 billion Campaign for the Third Century, launched last April. “This project has benefited enormously not just from your financial support but from your engaged partnership and helpful feedback as we move from idea to reality,” she said. “It has been a joy to work with you.”
Benton offered his own gratitude to Casey, Cushing, administrators, and the architects who have provided the designs, “for a building that will invigorate the Middle Campus,” he said. “A Colgate education provides exposure to a wealth of ideas and experiences. Critical thinking, awareness, and curiosity flourish here. The undercurrent of a liberal arts education is multidisciplinary and cross-disciplinary, and that’s what Middle Campus is about.”
Work begins immediately to address the Benton Center’s infrastructure needs. Plans call for contractors to pour its foundations this spring and doors to open in time for the fall 2024 semester.