The Margaret Warner Graduate School of Education and Human Development at UR provides the necessary background to practitioners and researchers in the fields of both education and human development necessary to contribute to the education of students.
The Warner School is presently located in Dewey Hall on the River Campus, a space that can no longer accommodate the growing school.
But this spacial conundrum will soon be solved, as the Board of Trustees, headed by Edmund Hajim ’58, recently approved the construction of a new building to house the school. It is to be named in honor the late Raymond F. LeChase, founder of LeChase Construction Company.
LeChase was a renowned philanthropist and an ardent proponent of education.
The announcement was made at a special event on Tuesday, March 15, in front of an audience of press, students, community members and friends and relatives of the LeChase family.
“The [recent] success [of the Warner School] also caused a problem where we soon ran out of space,” Raffaella Borasi, Dean of the Warner School, said. “That provided a strong motivation … to start working towards a new building. To be honest, I don’t think when we started this project five years ago we were really so confident that it would become a reality, and a reality so soon.”
The 65,000 square foot building will have a hefty total cost of $24 million, but the University has already identified the necessary funds to meet the cost. The majority of the money will be from a $3.5 million commitment to the University from R. Wayne LeChase, Raymond’s son and his wife Beverly.
The rest will come from reserves, the Warner School, the commitment of the College, as well as debt, which the University plans to reduce over time by raising the extra money.
Hajim echoed this perspective. “Education is the solution to everything,” he said. “Without it none of us would be here.”
“We are all particularly grateful to Wayne and Beverly LeChase who made … a commitment to the project in recognition of the critical role that education plays in improving lives,” UR President Joel Seligman said.
The new Raymond F. LeChase Building will be the first major building to be constructed on the Wilson Quadrangle in over 30 years and will be located between Wilson Commons and Todd Union with construction set to begin next month.
“This is a truly major project in the progress of the University,” Seligman noted. “It is … symbolic of the way in which the [UR] highlighted a commitment to the community of Rochester, to the school district and especially to the children in [grades] K-12.”
The building also has a special significance to the LeChase family. Wayne LeChase expressed his joy in the namesake and purpose of the building.
“Dad’s name on this building will be a tribute to him and those who understand the cultural importance of education for self and community,” LeChase said. “What better way to support our youth than to provide a state-of-the-art learning environment for our educators as they begin their careers to shape the minds of our children?”
And education sure is in need of reform — only 47 percent of high school students in the Rochester city schools graduate on time, not to mention the fact that 42 percent of Rochester children under the age of 18 are living below the poverty line.
“It is far more difficult for those without a high school diploma to find jobs and [it is] is impossible … to attend college,” Seligman said. “[Without K-12 education] we are essentially freezing out the American dream [for] about half of Rochester high school students. Great schools, talented educators [and] strong leaders [will] made a difference in the revitalization of K-12 education in Rochester.”
“That’s how you get out of these situations,” James Johnson II, nephew of Wayne LeChase and high school junior at McQuaid Jesuit, said. “If your parents didn’t graduate from college, [education] is your second chance.”
Gaps in the education system are long term problems that cannot be solved with a quick fix. There are things that can be done, though, that create small but important changes, including having effective schools for educators.
“We believe that schools of education play an important role in promoting educational innovations that can make a difference in our community,” Borasi said.
The lower floor of the building will house fourteen state-of-the-art classrooms which will be used by students of the Warner school in the evening, but also by UR undergraduates during the day. The classrooms will also be utilized during the summer for the Warner School’s new Horizon program, which was created to prevent learning loss during the summer for children living in poverty. The upper three floors will include offices for faculty and staff, a student center and specialized classrooms, as well as a multipurpose room to host different events. Connecting the spaces will be a three story high atrium.
Informal collaboration is also a goal of the new space. There will be plenty of areas conducive to informal gathering, encouraging cooperation and communication.
Although a groundbreaking new advance for the University and for the Warner School, there is some concern among students about the location of the new building, given that it will take away from a large portion of the Wilson Quad.
“I understand that there’s not a lot of space on campus, and obviously you would want to build such an important building in a location that’s going to be convenient,” sophomore Kirsten Williamson said. “It’s definitely limiting and I think it’s unfortunate that they’ve decided to build it there, but perhaps they didn’t have a better option.”
As of now it is scheduled to open in January of 2013.
“To put it simply, the Raymond F. LeChase Building is the University of Rochester’s commitment to our children — there is nothing more important,” Seligman said.
Goldin is a member of
the class of 2013.