Commentary Letters to the Editor

Letter to the Editor

To the Editor:

This newspaper has covered discussion surrounding the planned renovation of Pearson Hall, the Academy’s home to the Classics Department and the Tang Institute, and soon to welcome the Academic Skills Center (ASC). These changes are precipitated by changing needs for space on campus and the renovation of the Oliver Wendell Holmes Library (OWHL), among other things. I appreciate hearing the voices of those seeking to preserve its heritage spaces and the spirit in which many of those comments have been offered.

I respect and value the extensive efforts of those who led the planning process guided by our Campus Master Plan, a visionary document endorsed by the Board of Trustees. The plan’s first tenet implores us to “[e]nhance Phillips Academy’s unique sense of place guiding the evolution of its built and natural environments to support contemporary priorities while affirming the historic character of the campus.” The plan guides decisions as we renovate aging buildings to meet changing programmatic requirements. It is the job of the Trustees, with support from staff on campus, to determine the highest and best use of all the spaces on campus in light of current and future needs. The Campus Master Plan calls for the repurposing of the ground floor of Pearson Hall.

After reviewing current and potential uses to situate within the renovated Oliver Wendell Holmes Library, the planning committee proposed to locate space for the Tang Institute in the OWHL by relocating the ASC into Pearson A, the space described for re-use by the Campus Master Plan.

It has become clear to me, after meeting with those who care most deeply about this renovation — including members of the Classics faculty, the Office of Physical Plant, Tang Institute, ASC, and the planning committee — that there could be a future for Pearson that includes both a warm welcome for the ASC and greater preservation of heritage space. I asked our campus stakeholders to work collaboratively to consider alternatives, noting that Andover has a commendable record of honoring its past while also meeting current needs.

For example, as we transform the OWHL into a vibrant twenty-first-century learning hub, we will take care to protect the heritage of the Garver Room.  Preservation of historical spaces matters a great deal to us.  When Paresky Commons was renovated, Barbara Chase retained the marble steps, sculpted by footsteps dating back to 1930. This preservation ensured our privilege of traversing those same steps, reflecting on those who came before us, and making our own indentations.

Today I am pleased to report that those involved with the Pearson renovation have come together to agree on a revised plan, which I endorse. Pearson A and G will be preserved and assigned to Classics.

The Academic Skills Center will move into Pearson C. Pearson D will become a space shared by Classics and the Tang Institute.

I am deeply grateful for the time, input, and goodwill of all who have contributed to this mutually-agreed-upon solution.


John Palfrey