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Letter from Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Fredeen on how the coronavirus is affecting the Westminster transition

05/04/2020

Dear Rider Community,

The last time I wrote to you to share information about the Westminster transition, we were living in a time and place that now seems as distant as a foreign planet.

For more than a month, we have collectively focused our efforts on responding to the coronavirus outbreak and supporting one another through an extremely challenging moment that has disrupted the normal operation of our University and our society in a profound way.

As President Dell'Omo has said, our community has shown remarkable resiliency in adapting to this disruption. We should all be proud of how we're supporting one another during a time of great need and uncertainty.

Despite these and other hardships so many of us are experiencing right now, I still want to share information about the Westminster transition because I know how important it is to our campus community. While there is still great uncertainty about the current pandemic and specifically how long coronavirus will be with us, I want you to know the outbreak has not halted our plans to transition Westminster's programs to the Lawrenceville campus in the fall.

As a reminder, we planned the campus transition in two phases. Phase I primarily involves renovations and construction in Omega House, Gill Chapel and Moore Library to be completed in time for the fall semester. We have experienced some minor delays in the delivery of supplies and materials related to these projects, as well as some initial delays at the beginning of the pandemic as we established safe and socially-distanced working environments for the construction personnel. However, we continue to move forward with these projects to support Phase I of the transition.

At this time, the University plans to utilize $13 million of its 2017 bond funds to complete Phase I of the campus transition. Repurposing these funds requires the approval of the New Jersey Educational Facilities Authority (NJEFA), which is expected to consider this request at the end of May.

This plan will postpone the addition to the Science and Technology Center; however, in the absence of the addition, we will move forward with the development of new technology tracks within existing programs and renovations to two existing science classrooms.

We also intend to move forward with renovations to University House, which is primarily funded by a donor, and we will complete the renovations to Lincoln Hall, both residential facilities. Lastly, we will move forward with limited renovations inside the Fine Arts Center to the first and second floors for the campus transition, but the addition will be postponed for now.

We believe the decision to move forward with the campus transition at this time is critical to best preserve current and future Westminster enrollments, as well as supporting the vision for the combined Westminster College of the Arts in Lawrenceville. The plan has been approved by the University’s Board of Trustees.

I also wanted to provide an update regarding the Westminster organs related to the transition. The Casavant organ, also known as the Scheide Organ, has been selected to be refurbished and installed in Gill Chapel. The work will ensure the long-term viability of the instrument and provide an important resource for students performing in the chapel for years to come.

The organ was dismantled in February and is currently being refurbished. In addition to cleaning and repairs, more ranks will be added to increase the instrument's tonal color and power. A new detachable console is also being constructed. It will connect to five locations around the chapel, providing flexibility for concerts and recitals.

The Scheide Organ was built in 1969 by Casavant Frères, one of the best-known organ builders in the world. The instrument was dedicated to honor William H. Scheide in grateful recognition of his generosity in making its acquisition possible. Dr. Scheide served on the Westminster Choir College Board of Trustees for 27 years, nine of them as chairman. The pipe organ had been housed in Scheide Recital Hall on the Princeton campus.

We also are finalizing plans to place several other organs in faculty studios and practice spaces on the Lawrenceville campus, as well as plans to refurbish those organs as needed.

We expect the Scheide Organ to be installed in Gill Chapel this summer.

Finally, I’m pleased to share that we were selected to receive a $125,000 Capital Support Grant from the prestigious Presser Foundation to be used towards the renovation of the Bell Choir Rehearsal Room on the Lawrenceville campus. The Presser Foundation is one of the few private foundations in the United States dedicated solely to music education and music philanthropy.

Westminster’s handbell choir has been in existence for more than 40 years. The ensemble performs on the largest range of handbells in the world. Many of the bells are made of bronze and some weigh more than 10 pounds each. The Presser Foundation grant will assist with the creation of a secure and safe space within the Fine Arts Center to use and store these special instruments.

Although we are now living through a particularly challenging and unusual time, we remain committed to transparency and community engagement as we continue our work to ensure a strong and sustainable future for Westminster Choir College on the Lawrenceville campus.

I send my best wishes to you and your family to stay safe and healthy.

Sincerely,

DonnaJean Fredeen, Ph.D.
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs