Construction begins on Jean Student Center Complex, opening in fifteen months


Crier\Tim Mannila

Richard Meelia, Joanne Pietrini Smith, Roger and Francine Jean, Dr. Steven DiSalvo, Emma Bishop ’18, and Abbot Mark Cooper, O.S.B.

Dan Flatley, Crier Staff

The new name of the student center was unveiled at the groundbreaking ceremony in front of what is, at the moment, the Cushing Student Center on Thursday, Oct. 13, 2016.  The new name recognizes the lead donors, Mr. and Mrs. Roger and Francine Jean.

The Jeans gave the lead gift of $6 million, the largest cash gift in Saint Anselm’s history, for the construction and remodeling of the Cushing Student Center, which will now bear their names.

Mr. Jean, Saint Anselm College alum 1970, has been a member of The Board of Trustees of Saint A’s since 1998.  Mr. Jean also received his Honorary Doctorate from Saint Anselm in 2006, the same year he retired as Executive Vice President of Liberty Mutual Group and President of Liberty’s Regional Agency Markets business unit.

As President Steven R. DiSalvo, Ph.D referenced in his President’s Convocation on Sept. 8 and again on Oct. 13, this campus has needed a facelift for a while now. He called this new student center a part of that facelift. In an email to the entire college community, DiSalvo also wrote, “[The new student center] will forever enrich the landscape of our campus and the experience of our students.”

In an interview with Crier reporters after the groundbreaking event, Mr. Jean was asked when he and his wife first become benefactors of Saint Anselm College.  He replied, “Francine and I first got involved in the capital campaign in the early 2000’s.”  The Jeans originally started their giving by creating a scholarship fund in their names.  They soon realized that a new student center was a top priority for the College.

When asked his reason for giving the generous gift of $6 million to Saint Anselm College for the student center renovations, he replied, “While a student at Saint Anselm, I lived in Manchester with my parents.  I worked 30 hours per week.  I did not have a solid campus experience.  My hope is that this will provide students a better campus experience than what I had.”

The renovations are intended to initially help commuter students, as Mr. Jean was once a commuter student himself.   Overall it will serve as a magnificent hub for students to gather and spend time together.

Mr. Jean also shed light on the situation regarding the bookstore’s movement into the new student center, as the building that currently hosts the bookstore is also named after Mr. and Mrs. Jean.

He disclosed that in one of the final renderings of the new student center’s floor plan, the bookstore was removed from the plan.  He decided to take a stand on that, saying, “I felt strongly that if it was truly a student center, the bookstore would be a central hub in the building.”  He hopes that it will provide more traffic through the building and therefore more opportunities to purchase Saint Anselm attire and other items.

The name Cushing, from Cardinal Richard James Cushing, will no longer be featured on the face of the student center.

According to Mr. Jim Flanagan, Senior Vice President, College Advancement; the College is actively searching for a location, whether inside the new student center or otherwise, to remember Cardinal Cushing’s generous $500,000 gift for the Abbey Church in the early 1960’s.

Other naming opportunities are also available within the new student center, as shown in the packets handed out before the groundbreaking ceremony.  Naming opportunities such as the Academic Resource Center, the event center, the performance space, the Campus Ministry Suite, and the Career Development Center are all available to be renamed. The packet labels each opportunity as a certain price, all of the above would cost between $500,000 and $1,000,000 each.

Mr. Flanagan and the College Advancement Office are still attempting to reach their goal of raising the promised $7.6 million for this project, with the overall budget estimated to be $15 million. The College has raised $6.4 million of that $7.6 million goal, with 93.75% of the money raised so far coming from the lead gift from the Jeans.

Mr. Jean expressed his desire to see more benefactors get involved with this project, but admitting “it is hard for schools to get donations solely for buildings.”  Most philanthropic donations are focused on scholarship funds, job creation for students, or other missions that benefit students more directly than buildings.

Even Mr. and Mrs. Jean have focused mainly on their own scholarship fund for Saint Anselm College students, with their goal being to make it the largest scholarship fund in Saint Anselm College history.  Mr. Jean stressed that this lead gift for the student center would not cause a halt in his consistent contributions to the fund that the Jeans created.

The groundbreaking ceremony was lead by Mrs. Joanne Pietrini Smith, Chair of the Board of Trustees.  Speakers included Dr. DiSalvo, Mr. Richard J. Meelia, SGA President Emma Bishop ‘18, Abbott Mark Cooper, Dr. Joseph Horton, and Mr. Roger Jean.  Each expressed excitement for the construction to begin, and all thanked the Jeans for their gift.  Many Trustee members were in attendance, as they had a regularly scheduled meeting the next morning on campus at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics.