Florida Southern College announced today that the Dr. Marcene H. and Robert E. Christoverson Humanities Building will open at a dedication ceremony beginning at 1:15 p.m. Friday, Nov. 12.
The 25,000-square-foot contemporary building, designed by renowned New York architect Robert A.M. Stern, dean of the Yale School of Architecture, provides a dedicated setting for the study of the Humanities. Classrooms, seminar rooms, a writing center, language and computer labs, a film studies theater, faculty offices, and a two-story lobby gallery are among the building’s features.
As the new home to the departments of English and modern languages, every FSC student will take classes in this innovative learning center.
The building, on Lake Hollingsworth Drive at Johnson Avenue, creates a spectacular new gateway to the historic campus, known internationally for its Frank Lloyd Wright-designed west campus. Stern, one of the nation’s foremost Wright scholars, was also the architect for the Barnett Residential Life Center located on Lake Hollingsworth.
Dr. Marcene Christoverson made the lead gift for the building. The story of her celebrated career speaks to the ability to break through traditional roles and rise to the top of the business world. She began her career as a Navy WAVE during World War II; became a photo engraver following her discharge; and in 1947, became a bookkeeper for St. John Associates, Inc. Over the years, she rose through the ranks to become chairman, president, and CEO of the Bronx-based company, arguably the largest woman-owned direct mail house in the world, with clients including American Express and SAKS. Christoverson’s company has been recognized as the leader among women-owned businesses and received the “Bridges to Success Award” in 2000.
A Trustee of Florida Southern since 2000, Christoverson launched the campaign to fund the College’s Humanities Building. She believes the nation’s future is dependent on the effectiveness of higher education and graduates who are prepared for the future. Christoverson says, “There is no better investment than education for young people.”
Christoverson’s lead gift for the new building at Florida Southern inspired an outpouring of support from alumni, Lakeland leaders, and national foundations. To date, nearly 40 individuals, foundations, and corporations have joined Christoverson in her mission by making significant gifts to the building.
The College broke ground on the Christoverson Building in October 2007 and construction began shortly thereafter. Wallis Murphey Boyington Architects of Lakeland collaborated with Stern’s firm by providing construction documents and local construction administration services. Rodda Construction, Inc. of Lakeland built the facility.
The building’s design and interior furnishings are a masterful blend of traditional and contemporary styles, honoring the College’s internationally acclaimed Frank Lloyd Wright architecture that, though built more than 50 years ago, looks modern even today. The front of the Christoverson building features a dramatic two-story glass wall, with ironwork in Wright’s signature Cherokee red both inside and out. The lobby gallery is highlighted by custom Italian marble flooring and a central grand staircase with a stunning, artist-crafted, blown-glass pendant fixture.
The website for Robert A. M. Stern Architects (www.ramsa.com) states: “The new humanities building at Florida Southern College reflects the desire to create a new gateway to campus, and to provide additional space for humanities instruction and faculty. A dramatic, welcoming roof greets the visitor approaching along Lake Hollingsworth Drive announcing arrival to the Florida Southern Campus. In front of the building is a lawn scaled for students to meet between classes. Two sets of stairs lead up from the lawn to a loggia overlooking the lake. Beneath the sweeping roof, on the piano nobile, is the student lounge; a double-height heart of the building that encourages mixing between faculty and students. Grouped around this central social space are four classrooms and a seminar room while at the upper level the space is ringed by 20 faculty offices. At ground level are four laboratories dedicated to film studies, language instruction, writing, and computers.”
Florida Southern College is a nationally recognized college and a major international tourist destination. It is home to the world’s largest single-site collection of works by Frank Lloyd Wright, who between 1939 and 1958 designed and supervised the construction of 12 structures, including his only planetarium and theater-in-the-round. The College has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1975.