An Atmosphere of Change: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Commons

By Purnell T. Cropper | February 3, 2012

By Sarah R. Schwartz ’10

I recently caught up with a friend and fellow alumna, Kristin Longo ’10, who asked me about the new developments at Arcadia, namely, the Commons student center.

“It’s marvelous,” I replied, relaying my excitement about its official opening. My words rendered Kristin wide-eyed and speechless, not because we hadn’t always known that the new facility would be magnificent. Rather, I had worried that the new building would alter the character of our alma mater, make the place unrecognizable.

Let’s just say, I’ve had a complex journey with the Commons.

I was there when its construction began.

April 23, 2010

I turned in the very last paper of my undergraduate career at Arcadia on a Friday—the same day as the Commons groundbreaking ceremony—and began giving in to feelings many graduating seniors experience at that precipice, on the verge of plunging into the much-ballyhooed real world. I fought the atmosphere of change. It was through this filter that I chose to see the Commons as a threat, convinced this modern marvel would affect my first memory of Grey Towers Castle as it came into view on a misty spring morning—majestic, secluded and timeless.

May 22, 2010

The day after a glorious graduation ceremony on what is now Haber Green, I saw the fences go up, marking the space off-limits, as big trucks pulled in and construction began. There was something unnerving about watching such large machinery roll over the brilliant green space where, just a day before, I had exchanged hugs, thank-yous and congratulations with classmates and beloved professors.

June 21, 2011

Clad in my Arcadia University hardhat, I followed Tom Macchi, Associate Vice President of Facilities and Capital Planning, on a no-holds-barred tour of the Commons construction site. Approaching the final stages of completion, the Commons was finally tangible to me—no longer just an artist rendering or projection. The building was less obtrusive than the structure I had originally imagined, and a closer look revealed a piece that fit beautifully into the campus mosaic.

Ducking through doorways and scaling construction ladders with Tom, I noticed how well the space was designed, how it merged elements of the University’s classic look with features that capture the dynamic spirit of today’s campus life. I noticed the elegant way its stone overlays complement the Castle and adjacent residence halls, and how the curvaceous, flowing shape of the building and its abundance of windows imparts an air of flexibility and accessibility.

Standing on the roof of the Kuch Fitness Center, peering out over the gracefully arching apex of the Commons, I looked out at the familiar Castle turrets from a new vantage point. At that moment the Commons became real to me, not just as a structure but as the heart of campus. I realized that when a person or institution stops evolving, fails to innovate, stagnancy and decline are inevitable. That is something that neither Arcadia University nor its alumni would ever allow, as we look toward the future. That’s also why I chose Arcadia from a long list of ivy-covered colleges: for a tradition as constant as the Castle and an education as dynamic as the Commons.

Jan. 23, 2012

On this unseasonably warm day, I joined fellow Arcadians—faculty, staff, alumni, students and trustees—to dedicate the Commons. As events unfolded (and there were many) I experienced one sparkling moment after another, whether listening to laudatory remarks from President Carl (Tobey) Oxholm III, U.S. Senator Robert P. Casey Jr. and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett or sharing smiles and meaningful glances with new and familiar faces. The Commons is a structure that celebrates our shared experience as members of the Arcadia community as well as our status as global citizens.