Briar Grappone, 10, cuts the ribbon at the dedication and blessing of the Gregory J. Grappone Humanities Institute.
Briar Grappone, 10, cuts the ribbon at the dedication and blessing of the Gregory J. Grappone Humanities Institute.

On Friday, July 28, 2023 under a hot sun, the Anselmian community gathered for the blessing and dedication of the new Gregory J. Grappone Humanities Institute. The event acknowledged the many people and organizations who came together to make the new building possible, celebrated the new building, and made the case for the humanities value today more than ever.

“The Humanities has been at the heart of Saint Anselm College since its founding in 1889,” said Dr. Joseph A. Favazza, president of Saint Anselm College. “At a time when some schools have chosen to de-emphasize these areas of study that celebrate and nourish the human spirit, our college has reasserted its fundamental commitment to the humanities and made that commitment visible through the Gregory J. Grappone Humanities Institute.”

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The two-story facility, located in the Boiler House, is home to a large, state-of-the-art classroom, a seminar instruction room, a flexible, common meeting and exhibition space, a newly restored and landscaped courtyard, and modest administrative office space. It will serve as a living room on campus – where students, faculty, staff, and guests can gather to talk, learn, and reflect. The new home for the Grappone Humanities Institute serves as a visible reminder of the central place of the humanities in the life of Saint Anselm College.

“Last summer when we broke ground on this project, I said I thought this building could be turned into a kind of poem,” said Dr. Gary Bouchard, executive director of the Humanities Institute. “But the building can only say so much. Now, we must fill it and its surroundings with the vibrant conversations and discourse, and ideas that we have been cultivating for five years and the past 135 years.”

Robert and Beverly Grappone P’04 HD’21 have led the effort to create the Gregory J. Grappone Humanities Institute as a lasting legacy to their son Gregory, who died in 2015 after a lifelong battle with cancer. Gregory was a Great Books major at Saint Anselm and a passionate supporter of the humanities. PBS Filmmaker Ken Burns served as the honorary chair of the campaign.

“For my dad, books were a way of seeing the world in a new way – understanding someone else’s story. In a world as complicated as ours, understanding has never been more important. Studying great books at St. A’s helped form my dad into the person he became – empathetic, curious, kind,” said Briar Grappone, Gregory’s daughter, age 10. “My dad would be proud to know that we are all here today with the goal of building something bigger than ourselves.”

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During the dedication, Dr. Favazza announced the creation of two new, humanities-focused, scholarships – the John S. Whipple Scholarship for 18th Century Studies and the Grappone Fellowship.  Jillian Dorazio ’24, a history major, was announced as the first Whipple Scholar at the annual Shakespeare Sonnet Reading.  The first Grappone Fellow will be Jacob Akey ’24, an International Relations and Business major. He will receive a full tuition scholarship while serving the Institute in an ambassadorial and programming support role. 

On Thursday night, July 27, 2023, donors and friends gathered for a preview of the new building and to dedicate three statues by Sylvia Nicolas. These statues are bronze castings of the concept sculptures that Nicolas did prior to creating the iconic campus statues of Saint Anselm, Saint Benedict, and Mary. The previous Friday, a small group gathered to dedicate the Janet M. Withington Sunburst Seating Area and Garden. 

This fall, students will take classes in the new building, and the Humanities Institute will continue its two signature programs – the Come Friday Forums and Big Thoughts Series. Additional programming will take place throughout the year.

“The journey certainly doesn’t end,” said Bob Grappone. “Now our responsibility is to work on anchoring the goodness and grace that God gives us. Anchoring here so that it will spread elsewhere.”

Many people were involved in the construction of the new Grappone Humanities Institute: Jonathan Woodcock, director of physical plant, Kyle Davis, project manager, Kim Britton, and the entire physical plant staff; Milestone Construction, Placeworks Architects; James Flanagan, senior vice president and chief advancement officer; the Office of College Advancement staff; Dr. Bouchard; the National Endowment for the Humanities; and the Humanities Institute steering committee, its honorary chair, filmmaker Ken Burns, and committee chairs, Beth Kelly ’83, Susan Connelly’92, Mike Riegel ’92, and Bev and Bob Grappone.

“Many have put in significant time and effort to turn this project from a dream into a reality,” said James Flanagan, senior vice president and chief advancement officer. “I would like to express our heartfelt thanks to the Board of Trustees, the Campaign Steering Committee, the Monastic community, our faculty, staff, and alumni.”