Dwight-Englewood School officially started construction this week on a new academic building dedicated to the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM.

A groundbreaking ceremony for the new Hajjar STEM Center took place on Tuesday, 3 June at 5 PM on the D-E campus, at the corner of Leggett Field just north of Leggett Hall. The groundbreaking program included remarks from Head of School Dr. Rodney V. De Jarnett; Board of Trustees President and STEM leading donor Dr. John Hajjar, M.D.; and Ray Spitzley, Trustee, Chair of the D-E Buildings and Grounds Committee, and Head of the STEM Leadership Team.

A team of D-E administrators, teachers and trustees partnered with international architectural firm Gensler to research and plan the design for this $20 million facility. Those in attendance at the groundbreaking also included the sixty plus initial donors to the project; representatives from Gensler as well as the firms of Gilbane Building Company, Levien, and Union City National Bank; and members of the D-E community including families, alumni, faculty, and staff.

The event was scheduled to take place outdoors but was hastily yet smoothly moved indoors to a packed Hulst House, due to incoming thundershowers. Dr. De Jarnett initially noted, “My father, an Iowa farm boy, used to say that you needed to welcome the rain because rain is what’s needed to help things grow. So today’s rain is a wonderful sign for the start of our new Hajjar STEM Center.”

Dr. De Jarnett continued: “We owe immeasurable thanks to our donors, for changing the educational experience of our students for generations to come. None of what we accomplished however would have been possible without the vital support of the President of the Board of Trustees, Dr. John Hajjar, and his family. John, Sharon, Marc ’07, Brian ’11 and Michael ’11 – for whom this building will be named – have been unwavering in their support since day one. When this project was simply a dream, they supported the vision. And today we are on the cusp of seeing that dream become a reality.”

“The growing global focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) has created an urgent need to prepare our children, our future leaders, to become innovators in these STEM fields and to learn the way of thinking that engaged study with STEM accomplishes. Our School’s belief that we must educate our children to ‘meet the challenges of a changing world and make it better’ remains the driving force behind this vision.”

Dr. De Jarnett then thanked all the STEM Center’s initial 60-plus donors collectively, the administration, faculty/staff, people from Englewood, and families present. He also recognized the representatives in attendance from the project’s architecture firm, Gensler; Gilbane, an international construction firm; and Union City National Bank, for their support of a bond being offered to the School to complete the funds needed for the building. Lastly Dr. De Jarnett thanked Ray Spitzley, who then provided remarks of his own.

“Our Family strongly believes in the innovative example Dwight-Englewood sets for the world around us. We hope that this building will be used by students and teachers alike to inspire creative thinking and promote an excitement for the pursuit of learning.”

– John, Sharon, Marc ’07, Brian ’11 and Michael ’11 Hajjar

Spitzley told the story of how the idea of a STEM building began, gaining momentum due to conversations between Dr. De Jarnett and Dr. Hajjar and other key leaders within the School. He also explained how the word “process” was used to guide the Building & Grounds and Leadership Committees in their initial conversations. The committees worked together, and, in Spitzley’s words “the project partnership” became the operative approach, as the science and math faculty have been working with the committees as well.

Spitzley noted: “The Leadership team is adapting the School’s message to ‘meet the challenges of a changing world’ into creating a physical building, and will be building on the tradition of the School. In the words of Winston Churchill: “We build our buildings and then they shape us.” …. I believe this building will teach us…. and will change [us]. Thanks go to the math and science faculty for making this happen, thanks to the donors for making this happen, and for getting behind this vision, and thank you [in particular] to John and Sharon [Hajjar and their family] for not merely giving back but, in their words, giving forward.”

Dr. John Hajjar then provided remarks, expressing his sincere gratitude to his wife Sharon and his sons. He commented: “We did this because we believe in education… In [the future], there will be a dramatic increase in the demand for math jobs, and this is where [children] will get their start in that education…. [moreover] this building could not have bene conceived without the leadership and vision of Head of School, Dr. De Jarnett. The building will quite literally serve as a concrete reminder that the School’s tradition [of excellence] continues.”

Dr. De Jarnett wrapped up the ceremony by once again experessing appreciation to all who have played a part thus far in its existence, and that the Hajjar STEM Center will be completed on time and on budget, and we will open the doors in the fall of 2015. He concluded: “This groundbreaking is the culmination of more than two years of research, planning, exploration, and conversation, defining the three main tenets to our new STEM facility: First, everything is connected. Next, anytime is a teaching moment. Third, learning happens through doing. On Tuesday 3 June 2014, we will have placed shovels in the ground… this timing both symbolically and literally coincides with the conclusion of a very special anniversary year, during which we celebrated 125 years of Dwight-Englewood School. I can think of no better way to honor our past and also look forward to our bright future!”

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