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Construction to continue with new academic building, Arctic Museum

February 1, 2019

Two new buildings—an academic building named for former College President Barry Mills and a new home for the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum and Arctic Studies Program—will be constructed in the coming years on the corner of College Street and Sills Drive. President Clayton Rose announced the plans in an email to campus on Monday.

The construction of a new academic building, which is on track to include classrooms, faculty offices, study spaces, an event space and an auditorium, will allow for renovation of Sills Hall, which retains many features from its original 1950 construction. The new structure for the Arctic Studies Program will allow the Arctic Museum to vacate its current location on the first floor of Hubbard Hall.

Plans have not yet been made to decide which departments will occupy the new Mills Hall or the vacancy in Hubbard, said Dean for Academic Affairs Elizabeth McCormack.

This construction project, which is slated to begin in the summer of 2020 and be completed by the end of 2021, is part of the College’s Master Plan. The plan—created in 2004 by architectural firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill—outlines Bowdoin’s expansion and renovation projects for the next several decades. The Roux Center for the Environment and Park Row Apartments are also part of the plan.

Old standbys on campus will be torn down to accommodate the new additions. Dudley Coe, constructed in 1917, will be demolished when construction of the two buildings is complete. The future locations of the offices and facilities housed in Dudley Coe, including the Office of Residential Life and WBOR-FM, have not yet been determined.

In addition, a grove of pine trees at the proposed—but not yet finalized—construction site may be affected. Matt Orlando, senior vice president for finance and administration and treasurer of the College, made assurances that efforts will be made to minimize damage to the trees.

It is too early to know the total cost of these projects, said Orlando.

In addition to a 200-seat auditorium and a 250-person event space, Mills Hall will expand the number of classrooms that cater to the faculty’s needs and desires. Results from a classroom utilization study conducted last year reported that faculty prefer classrooms with flexible furniture and technological capabilities, said McCormack.

Orlando added that mid-sized classrooms are in particularly high demand.

“We have a deficit of classrooms that are suitable for class sizes, really between 30 and 60 students,” said Orlando. “That’s a constant challenge for scheduling, so this will help tremendously.”

The timing of the construction is also related to the phasing of the Campus Master Plan. Mills Hall will provide a “swing space” for faculty displaced during the Sills Hall renovation.

Since 1967, the Peary-Macmillan Arctic Museum has documented Bowdoin’s connection to the Arctic, dating back to the mid-19th century, in what was once the reading room of the College Library. Though some appreciate the intimate feel of the space, its size has hindered the Museum’s ability to expand and accommodate research. It is also not climate controlled, which endangers the collection.

“This is something that a number of us have been asking for a very long time,” said Susan Kaplan, professor of anthropology and director of the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum and Arctic Studies Center.

The new and larger space will grant the Arctic Museum more flexibility, not only to display more of its collection but also to encourage faculty and students to engage in the interdisciplinary nature of Arctic Studies, said Kaplan. Initial plans for the new facility also include a classroom, which the current museum lacks, to facilitate hands-on interaction with the museum’s artifacts.

“The museum has collected so many artifacts and a lot of people have donated stuff, and there is just not enough space in the current museum to house all of those artifacts,” said Seneca Ellis ’22, who works in the Museum. “So it’s super cool that they’re going to have a new place where they can display more of the really cool things that they’ve managed to collect.”

In the Monday email, Rose also announced a $5-million donation toward financial aid from Fiona and Stanley Druckenmiller ’75, H’07 to honor Mills, the 14th President of the College. Bolstering the College’s financial aid program was an important value and goal  during Mills’s presidency. When Mills was President between 2001 and 2015, Bowdoin admissions became need-blind and the College adopted a no-loan/grant-only financial aid policy.

“He really moved the needle for the College in terms of improving our financial aid packages, implementing the no-loan policy and expanding the endowment, growing the scholarship endowment for the College, and so this makes perfect sense,” Orlando said.

Druckenmiller, formerly a hedge fund manager and member of the College’s Board of Trustees, is a repeated donor to the College. In 1998, Druckenmiller gifted $35.6 million to the College, the largest donation ever received.

A program committee for each building, consisting of students, faculty and staff, will convene soon to begin designing Mills Hall and the Arctic Studies Center. Orlando estimates that schematic designs will be ready to present to the Brunswick Planning Board early next year.

Editor’s Note, 2/1/2019: An earlier version of this article misstated the expected cost of the project. The article has been updated to remove the error.

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