Using matching pairs of golden scissors, longtime benefactor and former Nichols Interim President Gerald Fels and his wife Marilyn cut a red ribbon on Friday, November 16th to officially open the College’s new $10 million Student Center that bears their name.
Surrounded by more than a dozen principal donors for the new building, members of the College’s Board of Trustees, and better than a hundred students, Nichols President Susan West Engelkemeyer led a dedication ceremony short on pomp and long on appreciation, as she recognized “the newest addition to the Nichols landscape.”
“We celebrate (Jerry and Marilyn’s) lifelong devotion to enriching the lives of others and thank them for their unparalleled commitment to Nichols College and the local community,” Engelkemeyer said, adding that the Fels Student Center owed more to them than their $1 million contribution towards its construction.
“Through Jerry’s leadership on the Board of Trustees and as interim president (during the 2010-11 academic year), this building grew from concept to reality. It is the manifestation of Jerry’s student-centered approach for Nichols and would not be nearly as inviting and student-oriented without his vision for this project.”
Fels, the former longtime CEO of MAPFRE Commerce Insurance based in neighboring Webster, shared the credit. “It was really a collaborative effort between the Board of Trustees and the donors,” he noted. “And it’s a reflection on the Nichols community as a whole as to what can be done when we work together.”
The dedication of the Fels Student Center took place in the expansive, high-ceilinged student lounge on the building’s ground floor. Many of the students attending wore green t-shirts bearing the message, “Thank You Jerry and Marilyn!” The building also includes a beam signed by Nichols students.
Besides the student lounge, the 30,000-square-foot Center houses student services, including the Center for Student Involvement, Residence Life and Career Services; meeting space for student government and clubs; an alternative food service; and the post office, bookstore and Nichols College radio station WNRC 97.5 FM.
The 45-minute-long ceremony also featured a 10-minute video, which was projected above the stone fireplace at the far end of the student lounge and featured testimonials by Nichols students, administrators, and board members.
Nichols Vice President for Advancement Bill Pieczynski opened the dedication by recognizing almost two dozen major donors for the project, more than half of whom were in attendance and took their seats alongside the podium. Eleven of the donors reside in or hail from the greater Worcester area and accounted for $3 million in contributions.
The entire $10 million cost of the building was funded by private donations, administrative officials point out, and the names of five benefactors are embossed just inside the Center’s entrance. Besides Gerald and Marilyn Fels, they include John H. Davis ’72, Stephen A. Davis ’80, Keith T. Anderson ’81, and Arthur J. Remillard, Jr., the founder and former CEO of MAPFRE Commerce Insurance.