In 1878, Bishop Niles stood on the bank, looking out over Plymouth, the Baker River Valley, and the local mountains—including Stinson, Tenney, and Plymouth. Of the several possible locations, he decided this was where he wanted to found a modest Episcopal school, built in this humble but beautiful location, with a motto “For God and Humankind.” For 140 years, Bishop Niles’ decision and vision have served to keep us grounded.
That grounding and vision have been a constant touchstone as we have been designing and now fundraising to support a plan that will impact virtually every teaching and learning space on campus. We are planning a new academic building that will support the sciences and mathematics, and we want to renovate other learning spaces on campus as well.
As our math and science programs have evolved, we have seen the limitations of our current facility, Hagerman, for the last dozen years or so. In fact, “explore building a new science building” was part of our 2005 strategic plan; we even had an initial conceptual plan drawn in 2007. That said, community and school life took priority as we renovated Weld and added the two new dorms, allowing more faculty to live on campus and creating an 8:1 student to faculty ratio in the dorms. While those plans have served our community well, by 2012, we realized the time had come to explore the design of a new space to support all of our teaching and learning.
Enter Rob Kinsley ’88, the chair of our board’s Building and Grounds Committee. The design process he facilitated will inform every teaching and learning space on campus. He and his team did Not ask the science department how many labs they needed (at least not at ﬁrst). Instead, Rob asked, where do you see science education for Holderness in 15–20 years? What are the national trends in science education and curriculum? How does the research in cognitive science inform how we should be teaching? What are the unique opportunities for Holderness in this ﬁeld? Needless to say, these were robust questions and thus began over a year of research, conversations, and ﬁnally visits to new higher education and independent school science facilities. In the end, the science department decided the aspirational guidelines for these new spaces needed to be collaboration, innovation, and ﬂexibility.
Over the last year, Director of Teaching and Learning Nicole Furlonge has worked with Rob and his team to ask all the other academic departments the same questions. In the end, collaboration, ﬂexibility, and innovation are guiding themes for all the renovations—for classrooms, breakout spaces, and faculty planning spaces in the new building, Hagerman, and Schoolhouse.
Of course, now that most of the planning is done, the big question is, how do we pay for such extensive work? Over the last two years, we have been sharing the concept with the board and prospective donors. Ultimately, the cost to build the new building ($15 million), to endow the new building ($6 million), and to renovate Hagerman and Schoolhouse and create an academic quad ($6.2 million) is a hefty price tag! True to Holderness, however, we will not start construction until we have pledges in hand for the full amount.
Enter our incredibly generous Holderness family. First, the Holderness Board of Trustees, led by Board Chair Bob Hall, have been incredibly active. There has been full board participation, and most board members have made their biggest donations ever. That commitment has helped inspire other members of the Holderness family to make stretch gifts, including three exceedingly generous matching gifts—one for Hagerman, one for the academic quad, and one for the new academic building. The matches for Hagerman and the quad have already been met. Elevating Academics Campaign
The ﬁnal match for the new academic building is both generous and very creative. The family wants to exceed the $27.2 million goal to help with rapidly increasing construction costs as well as to give us a contingency. They have made a dollar-to-dollar match for the next 2.5 million new dollars we raise, and then they will match every additional new dollar with a $1.60 to make the entire gift $6.5 million, provided we raise $5 million in new dollars. Already multiple families have stepped up to get us to a point where we are in the ﬁnal push. The project is now “public,” and we welcome any member of the Holderness family to take advantage of this very generous matching donation to help get us the full $5 million and thus $6.5 million. If interested, we would be delighted to have as many folks as possible donate. As Bob Hall frequently encourages us, “We want a shovel in the ground by the summer of 2019!”
Oh, so where will that “shovel” dig? Originally, the site was behind the backstop of the baseball ﬁeld. However, after extensive conversations with key Holderness stakeholders—including many former board members and alumni—it was clear that this location would be problematic. Only this spring, did we go back and look at other sites. A new site, near where Marshall existed for 70 years behind Carpenter and next to Alfond Library, became a possibility, and the board approved this location in late June.
Let’s go back to Bishop Niles and his view over Plymouth, the local mountains, and the Baker River Valley. 140 years later this view aligns with our goal to bring the outdoors into new buildings; this new facility will have views on both sides, out to the mountains on one side and onto the academic quad on the other. Thank you, Bishop Niles, for your vision for this unique Episcopal school in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, founded to work for the “betterment of humankind and God’s creation.”