all photos Kaley Soud/Catalyst
On Friday, Nov. 4 at 4:00 p.m., the Academic Center’s plaza was dedicated in honor of Beverly and Robert Koski, after thousands of dollars and hours of time dedicated to New College’s past 40 years. This particular plaque will be fitted in the plaza is in gratitude of the latest $1 million donated to the campus for the construction of a bell tower and various academic priorities at New College.
“Let’s call this the official opening of the Academic Center,” President Gordon “Mike” Michalson exclaimed to the crowd. Approximately 50 people that gathered on one of the first truly cold days of fall to consecrate the new and now-dominant academic space on campus. “When visitors walk into the signature building on campus, we want them to see students and teachers, study areas and classes, not administrators and bureaucrats,” he remarked.
The central plaza named in honor of the Koskis has been landscaped with native Florida plants and trees, including built-in benches and a sunken lawn beneath the Four Winds Sculpture dedicated in honor of board chair and former senator Bob Johnson. The emblematic Four Winds symbol is embedded in this new structure to represent New College’s “eternal search for truth and continuity” in the face of change and progress, according to the event’s press release.
“It’s nice knowing that, if nothing else, I will always have Beverly and Bob Koski surrounding me,” Johnson said to the positioning of his name-sake as the focal point of the plaza.
Michalson and Johnson were followed by Professor of French Language and Literature Jocelyn Van Tuyl, who offered a faculty perspective of this new addition, and Dean of Students Wendy Bashant gave a student life perspective. Following, Dr. Robert Barylski provided retrospect from his years as Dean of both New College and the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee in the late 1970s and 1980s. The event concluded with comments by one of the three students present, New College Student Alliance (NCSA) co-president Oliver Peckham.
According to the press release, the Academic Center and plaza are part of a plan envisioned by the architects to “densify” the campus around Bay Shore Road, eventually encompassing new academic and classroom buildings on the north and south with a green quadrangle between them. Plans beyond the bell tower and international affairs building are scheduled to be built in the next few years.
“Maybe it’s not the center of the universe,” Bashant conceded. “But maybe it’s the center of our solar system, surrounded by our satellites and planets – a center of academia.”
Philanthropist Beverly Koski’s personal involvement with New College stretches back through 40 of its 50 years of existence. She served for many years as the leader of the New College Library Association (NCLA) and donated one of the Cook Library’s first, not to mention largest, collections of books. The Koski Core Collection Fund continues to help acquire new books and resources, which “helps make Cook Library one of Southwest Florida’s most important public-access research libraries,” according to the press release.
When it was Koski’s turn to take the stage, she spoke of a past dedicated to New College and her pleasure at being a part of the “journey of this institution.”
“I want to thank every single one of you for providing me the opportunity to be a part of this place,” she said in the final words to her speech. Met with a standing ovation, she sat again on the plaza carrying her name beneath the emblem of the institution, the endlessly blowing four winds.