Golisano gifts $7.5 million to RWC for new Community Engagement Center

By on September 9, 2019
Roberts Wesleyan College President Deana L. Porterfield and Tom Golisano with a rendering of the Golisano Community Engagement Center slated to begin construction in the fall of 2020.

Roberts Wesleyan College President Deana L. Porterfield and Tom Golisano with a rendering of the Golisano Community Engagement Center slated to begin construction in the fall of 2020.

Roberts Wesleyan College has received a gift of $7.5 million from Paychex founder and philanthropist Tom Golisano to build an innovative new Community Engagement Center. The 25,000-square-foot, two-story center will serve as a hub for connection, community interaction, and student life resources, as well as a workplace for Roberts’ growing custom training and education programs. 

The center will be named the Golisano Community Engagement Center in Golisano’s honor. Groundbreaking for the $13.5 million building is slated for fall 2020 and construction is expected to take 14 months, with the grand opening set for fall 2021. The new center will be located on the campus, north of Westside Drive.

This gift and Golisano’s $5 million donation in 2001 for the B. Thomas Golisano Library are the largest financial gifts in Roberts Wesleyan’s 153-year history.

The Golisano Community Engagement Center will house training programs, including the college’s newly launched Community Institutes, and provide easy access to career development and student-life resources. It will be the first building on campus to provide centralized meeting space and community interaction opportunities for all students — traditional undergrads, commuters, adult students, and students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. With a growing population of adult and graduate students, especially in the area of teacher education, this center will provide student-centered spaces for studying and collaborating on group assignments.

Roberts Wesleyan’s Community Institutes, which provide custom educational solutions and resources to Rochester-area businesses and organizations, offer certificate and training programs separate from the degree-based education the college already offers. They were designed to meet the significant and unserved demands of companies and organizations that seek effective and affordable learning to gain real-world experience and insight. The institutes are a go-to resource for businesses, government, health care administration, law enforcement, school districts, and churches. The four institutes are: 

•Business Solutions Institute – focuses on workforce development by supporting small- to medium-sized businesses with specific training, consulting, and special project needs.

•Justice and Security Institute – provides training and tools for local schools, businesses and places of worship to teach local communities about targeted violence, and how to identify and stop violence before it happens, through customized threat assessment strategies.

•English Language Institute – helps upward mobility through education and cultural and language competence.

•Intellectual and Spiritual Humility Institute – provides teaching opportunities focused on bringing communities together in a polarized society, creating space and respect for all people.

Other services and offices that will be in the new center to meet students’ evolving needs include a career center, diversity and equity office, spiritual formation office and chapel, and international engagement office.

“I am pleased to provide a gift of $7.5 million to establish the new Community Engagement Center at Roberts Wesleyan College. The four institutes that will be housed within the center will provide much-needed training and education to businesses, corporate and community partners, and students. Our region boasts several wonderful institutions of higher education, but few are located on the west side. The Community Engagement Center will create an opportunity for Roberts to expand its reach by sharing its professional and educational expertise with the broader community,” Golisano said.

The Golisano Community Engagement Center is a key component of the college’s five-year strategic plan, established in 2016. The plan focuses on three aspects: engaged campus culture, innovative growth, and transformational partnerships. The strategies in the plan include new programs, new buildings, new initiatives, and new hires. The Golisano Community Engagement Center aligns with all three areas of focus and will provide a direct impact on the college’s culture and partnerships.

In March 2017, the college began preliminary research for this project, conducting interviews with alumni, friends of the college, local businesses, thought leaders and students. Data and exploratory research proved that a building of this nature would be a destination for training, networking, and student collaboration. 

“We are so grateful to Tom Golisano for the overwhelming demonstration of support of the work we do. This gift not only opens the way for us to move forward with the plan for the construction of a unique campus building, but is also an encouraging endorsement of our mission to serve the educational needs of the Greater Rochester community and the students of Roberts Wesleyan College,” said Deana L. Porterfield, president of Roberts Wesleyan College.

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