Dominican Center
The Dominican Center, which will soon become a new feature of the Mount Saint Mary College campus. (photo by Lee Ferris, Mount Saint Mary College)

By Jac Bergenson

Four score and six years ago, the Dominican sisters brought forth on the city of Newburgh a new Motherhouse, steeped in the traditions of the Dominican tradition and dedicated to the proposition that all men deserve an equal education.

Sitting atop a hill, her arms stretching to the north and the south and her eastern face reflecting sunlight over the Hudson, the Dominican center has long stood a symbol of Mount Saint Mary College. Though it served as a high school, dubbed Mount Saint Mary’s Academy, it was not until recently that the colossus officially became a part of the college.

In 2011, Father Kevin Mackin and the Mount’s Board of Trustees negotiated the purchase of the 90,000 square foot property from the Dominican Sisters of Hope for a price of approximately $5 million, per Dominican Life, anticipating an even greater cost for renovation. Since 2012, the school has actively been campaigning to obtain a sum of $10 million, which will actively go towards integrating the building into the Mount students’ daily lives.

The Mount’s plans for the Dominican Center include the development of dormitory space, the relocation of the Curtin Memorial Library from Aquinas Hall, the laying of new athletic fields on the surrounding grounds, and the inclusion of new dining options, potentially bringing established quick-service restaurants to the campus.

The college’s plan to house up to 150 new students on the upper floors of the building by August, 2013, according to its magazine, A Call to Excellence, raises some questions. Among the students’ most frequent complaints is the campus’ need for better infrastructure; parking is already scarce, and adding new dormitories sans adequate parking would serve only to aggravate the problem. The college has addressed this issue, however, with plans to add new parking areas before the end of the spring semester of 2014.

Dean DiMarzo, the schools Director of Marketing, has overhauled the school’s logo to celebrate the addition. The iconic silhouette of the Dominican Center and the cross atop it replaces that of Whittaker Hall, which has stood in the center of campus since it was purchased from the Van Duzer estate in 1913. DiMarzo believes the purchase of the Dominican Center signifies the new growth of the school. Incorporating it into the school’s marketing materials “was a great opportunity to revisit the college’s visual identity,” he told the Poughkeepsie Journal in March.

“The transformation of the Dominican Center represents a blending of our past and the possibilities of the future,” says the Chair Albert J. Gruner, DMD, of the MSMC Board of Trustees. “It’s an exciting time for the college!”

Mount Saint Mary College will breathe new life into its campus next year. Just as Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address would mark a turning point in American histor, four score and seven years after the nation was founded, it seems fitting that the re-opening of the Dominican Center would mark a turning point in the Mount’s history four score and seven years after it first opened.