Dedication & Opening 2015

Dwight-Englewood School (D-E) celebrated the opening of the new 28,000 square-foot Hajjar STEM Center with a formal dedication on Tuesday evening, September 8, at which leadership donors were honored and recognized, including Dr. John Hajjar and his wife Sharon Hajjar and their family, for whom the Hajjar STEM Center is named. After brief welcome remarks on Leggett Field by Head of School Dr. Rodney V. De Jarnett, the Dedication began with a ceremonial ribbon cutting. Wielding a very large pair of blue scissors and with equally large smiles, Dr. Hajjar and Sharon together with their sons, D-E alumni Marc ’07, Brian ’11, and Michael ’11, cut the blue ribbon and then welcomed nearly 200 event guests into the new building for the first time.

Global design firm Gensler provided design services for the $20 million facility that now houses all D-E Upper School science, mathematics, engineering, and technology-related departments. Gilbane Building Company provided construction and building related services for the Hajjar STEM Center, beginning in June 2014. The facility consists of seven flexible classrooms and eight science laboratories centered around a double-height clerestory; arena seating with 4×4 LCD screens; a greenhouse; micro-climate study garden; robotics lab; flexible student-centric furniture configurations; and floor-to-ceiling glass windows with writeable surfaces that encourage both structured and impromptu collaborative learning and teaching environments.

In his opening remarks to attendees, which in addition to Hajjar STEM Center donors included D-E trustees and trustee emeriti, representatives of Gensler and Gilbane, and City of Englewood officials, Head of School Dr. Rodney V. De Jarnett repeatedly and enthusiastically expressed his appreciation to “all who had the vision for what this building could be, and the ripple effect it will have on D-E.”

zoom_news774687_720212Dr. De Jarnett specifically thanked the School’s neighbors, “who have been supportive of D-E and patient throughout the construction”; ConnectOne Bank and its “extremely supportive representatives who helped us throughout the project”; D-E Board of Trustees Building and Grounds Committee Chair Ray Spitzley; Langan Engineering, the engineering firm who worked with D-E through the project; U.S. Information Systems, which was responsible for state of the art technology that “permeates every space in the Hajjar STEM Center”; Levein and Company, which provided project management; and building contractors Gilbane, Inc. Special words of praise and thanks were then directed by Dr. De Jarnett to representatives of Gensler, including Mark Thaler and Robin Avia.

In the words of Dr. De Jarnett: “Mark and his team worked with us from the beginning, touring school and college sites, reading current literature, visioning with us the facility that we knew would lead us into the future. You will see as we go along that Mark and his team designed to perfection a STEM Center that reflected all that emerged from our visioning sessions. You could have completed better work for Dwight-Englewood School.”  

Praising Gensler’s Robin Klehr Avia, who is also a D-E trustee emerita and parent (Alexandra ’08), Dr. De Jarnett then noted, “Words cannot describe all that Robin Avia has done for our community, over the years. I hope that Robin, like all of us tonight, sees in this Center the very best of all she represents to our community… her colleagues stepped up and invested all of their energy and talents to ensure the [very best in this design and in the final product.”

Dr. De Jarnett then expressed appreciation to those within the D-E administration, including Upper School Principal Joseph Algrant; Director of Technology Trevor Shaw; Director of Advancement Pat Boig; and Director of Leadership Giving Karen Silvera. In his words: “Karen, as many of you here tonight know, was so particularly instrumental to the process by which we raised a record amount of donations — more than $15 million — to help this building become a reality.” Lastly, to appreciative chuckles from those assembled, Dr. De Jarnett thanked his wife Annette for her consistent support during the very long process of planning for and then building the Hajjar STEM Center. Dr. De Jarnett concluded, saying, “The new Hajjar STEM Center represents the best thinking about where we are going as a learning community. The original vision for this building, the planning phase, and the end result are all consistent with our mission, which states that ‘as a community of learners, we strive to foster in each student a passion for life-long learning…in order to meet the challenges of a changing world and make it better. The three tenets which were constantly central to our vision — ‘Learning Happens through Doing’, ‘Everything is Connected’, and ‘Any Time is a Teachable Moment’ — are all supported by this building’s beautiful design.”

Dr. John Hajjar then spoke, first with words of sincere gratitude to his fellow donors for “believing in this dream that is now a reality.” He also remarked on the leadership demonstrated throughout the building’s planning and project phases by Dr. De Jarnett and others, including D-E Buildings and Grounds Executive Committee Chair Ray Spitzley. Dr. Hajjar also recognized his successor as President of the D-E Board of Trustees, Matt Golub, for his help and leadership in continuing the School’s ongoing, positive momentum. Dr. Hajjar concluded his remarks by echoing the words inscribed on a beautiful plaque placed within the Hajjar STEM Center main entryway: “Our family believes in the strong 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.”

Sharon Hajjar and Michael Hajjar ’11 then both followed Dr. Hajjar’s comments with brief yet thoughtful remarks of their own, each expressing thanks for what Dwight-Englewood represents, and how the School has had an enduring, positive impact on their family.

Following his ceremonial presentation of a gift recognition plaque to the Hajjar Family, Dr. De Jarnett turned the attention of event guests to the “big three” — significant areas within the Hajjar STEM Center “which will provide the best environment for integrated learning.”

First, Dr. De Jarnett recognized the beautiful space that represents the Grace and Mercy Foundation Floor. The family of Bill and Becky Hwang and their daughters Joanne ’16 and Anna ’21 were recognized by Dr. De Jarnett for their donation toward this key area within the Center.

Dr. De Jarnett then thanked the Massoud Family, for their contributions which made possible the Hajjar STEM Center atrium’s Massoud Steps. Dr. Bryan and Jodi Massoud, along with sons Luke ’28 and Ben ’30, were presented with a gift and words of thanks from Dr. De Jarnett for their being invested in what the Hajjar STEM Center is all about: “innovative areas for learning and teaching.”

Dr. De Jarnett completed with his “big three” spaces recognition comments by thanking and honoring the Taub family — including Ira and Shelley Taub; their children Sydney ’12, Alex ’15, and Julia ’20; Marilyn (‘Mickey’) Taub; and Barbara Lawrence, Executive Director of the Henry and Marilyn Taub Foundation — for their contributions which led to the creation of the Taub Innovation Center within the Center. Paraphrasing the infamous quote by Winston Churchill, Dr. De Jarnett noted that the Taub Innovation Center, as with all the learning spaces found within the Hajjar STEM Center, “are together representative of how we build our buildings, and then they shape us.”

DSC_0064The evening then culminated with simultaneous dedication ceremonies held for various individual classrooms and laboratories (see below for a complete list of these spaces and for whom they are named). Instrumental music provided by D-E faculty members Annaliesa Place (violin) and Diego Garcia (cello), and delicious appetizers and beverages, added to the ambiance of the evening as guests clearly enjoyed exploring the entire facility.

For additional details about the Hajjar STEM Center, please see below. Questions about the Hajjar STEM Center may be directed by Email to:

Hajjar STEM Center Individual Classroom and Laboratory SpacesIMG_9476

  • Joan Ganz Cooney Laboratory
  • Jerome Outdoor Classroom
  • Harjen Study Nook
  • Lasky Environmental Zone
  • Mia Macri Laboratory
  • Anikeyev Microclimate Study Garden
  • DTGO Mathematics Classroom
  • Lagana Greenhouse
  • Gallo Mathematics Classroom
  • Spitzley Laboratory
  • Greenberg Mathematics Classroom
  • Braverman Faculty Study
  • Merson Laboratory
  • Canino D’Alessandro Classroom
  • Mager Mathematics Classroom
  • Altirs Classroom
  • Oz Mathematics Classroom

zoom_news774687_720269Hajjar STEM Center Fast Facts

  • 8 laboratories and 7 mathematics interior classrooms; prep rooms between the science laboratories.
  • Outdoor “classrooms” include a greenhouse, micro-climate study garden, and an environmental zone.
  • Robotics Lab on the first floor offers 2,200 square-foot space for easier experimentation.
  • Laboratories feature fully flexible furniture configurations. Lab tables for experiments are on the periphery of the room, with Harkness Tables in the front/center for discussion. There is no “front” of the classroom, creating a student-centric (rather than a teacher-centric) space.
  • A 2-story clerestory on the first floor features 4×4 array of LCD screen capable of displaying live streaming content and curated presentations as well as arena stepped seating for presentations, seminars, and student workshops.
  • Floor-to-ceiling glass walls throughout, including the Faculty Study, enabling collegial collaboration and impromptu interactions with peers and students.
  • Pursuing U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Certification, a green building certification programs that recognizes best-in-class building strategies and practices.
  • IMG_9618Luminaries’ quotes and contributions featured at each classroom and lab entrance, reflective of the discipline studied within. Examples:
  1. Lise MeitnerMeitner remains a giant in the fields of radioactivity and nuclear physics. She was the co-discoverer of the element Protactinium (Pa) and the element Meitnerium (Mt) was named in Meitner’s honor.
  2. Albert EinsteinThe father of modern physics revolutionized our world. Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, quantum description of light, and mass-energy equivalence formula ‘E = mc2 ’ proclaim why his name is synonymous with genius.
  3. DSC_0058Pythagoras“There is geometry in the humming of the strings, there is music in the spacing of the spheres.”
  4. Robert KochThe father of modern bacteriology, Koch was the first scientist to prove the association between microbes and disease, isolating the germs responsible for anthrax, tuberculosis, and cholera. He was an early master of epidemiology, using exquisite detective and data analysis skills to locate the source of a severe cholera outbreak in London.
  5. DSC_0051Srinivasa Ramanujan“1729 is a very interesting number; it is the smallest number expressible as the sum of two cubes in two different ways.”
  6. Rosalind FranklinThrough X-ray crystallography, Franklin helped science grasp the shape and structure of molecular-level objects, from DNA to viruses.
  7. George Washington CarverAn activist in many ways, Carver the research botanist devised the solution to nutrient depletion in the cotton fields of the South by establishing crop rotation with legumes such as peanuts and soybeans, which became valuable alternative cash resources and food sources.

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