November 7, 2011 — On Friday, November 4, 2011, New College of Florida, the state’s honors college for the liberal arts and sciences, dedicated the plaza adjacent to its new Academic Center, which opened in the fall of 2011 at the corner of U.S. 41 and College Drive in Sarasota.
The newly-named Koski Plaza recognizes a generous gift of $1 million from Beverly Koski and her late husband, Robert, co-founder of Sun Hydraulics. The gift will be used to construct a bell tower in the section of the plaza adjacent to the Jane Bancroft Cook Library on Bay Shore Road. The rest of the gift will be used to fund a variety of academic priorities at New College, which is consistently ranked one of the top public liberal arts colleges in the country.
“Our campus architects recognized that we lacked a central meeting place on campus,” recalled New College President Dr. Gordon E. “Mike” Michalson in his opening remarks. “The Academic Center was the obvious place to create that focus for interaction between faculty and students. Today we celebrate the success of that idea. And in Beverly Koski’s gift, we also celebrate the tradition of giving by generous donors, which runs in the DNA of our institution, back to its private days.”
Beverly Koski, one of Sarasota’s leading philanthropists and community leaders, has been active at New College for much of its 50-year history, serving for many years as a leader of the New College Library Association (NCLA).
“New College is a special place,” said Koski. “It’s a place where students can come and design their own program under a mentor and the leadership of a fabulous staff. I am very proud to be a part of the New College tradition. It pleases me to think of the faculty, and students gathering in this plaza to discuss the topics of the day and the challenges before them.”
In the College’s early years, the Koskis made one of the first large gifts to the library, and the Koski Core Collection Fund continues to help acquire new books and resources, helping make the Cook Library one of Southwest Florida’s most important public-accessible research libraries. The College also worked closely in recent years with Robert Koski to host an annual meeting of engineering experts from around the globe.
Student government co-president Oliver Peckham connected campus enhancements with New College’s desire for constant self-improvement and newness, not stagnation.
“The creation of new spaces is a pure and reified representation of those ideas,” stated Peckham. “But these improvements, these spaces, do not manifest themselves spontaneously, nor do they spring into existence upon a certain number of students concentrating very hard on how much they desire and value the principle of newness. They come about because generous individuals take a look at those ideals, take a look at the incredible opportunities New College offers, and say: ‘I believe in that. I want to be a part of that.’ They put the ‘New’ into New College.”
The ceremony also included remarks by Board Chair Bob Johnson, a faculty perspective given by Professor of French Language and Literature Jocelyn Van Tuyl, a student life perspective from Dean of Students Wendy Bashant and, from Dr. Robert Barylski, a retrospective from his years as dean of both New College and the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee in the late 1970s and 1980s, when the two institutions shared a campus and New College was still part of USF.
Van Tuyl commented on the difference the new Academic Center has made in her interactions with faculty colleagues as well as students.
“I can see what is happening on a human level now,” commented Van Tuyl, whose office had been located at the remote Caples campus. “Faculty members pop in and out of each other’s doors, which creates true ‘collegiality.’ And the convenient location means that my students are more inclined to stop by my office when they have questions or need help.”
The new Academic Center is New College’s most significant academic building constructed in nearly 20 years. The $11-million, masonry and stucco building houses classrooms and faculty offices, and includes state-of-the art teaching amenities in 2.5 stories. The classrooms, which double as hurricane shelters with a 140-mph wind load, feature enhanced wireless technology for students.
The Academic Center was recently awarded Gold LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) for a number of environmentally friendly features. The USGBC awards point values based on sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality, and innovation in design.
Koski Plaza is also home to the Four Winds Sculpture, designed by nationally-known artist Bruce White. The sculpture was dedicated in April 2011 to former Senator Bob Johnson in recognition of his longtime advocacy on behalf of the College. The “Four Winds” is the College’s official emblem and represents the eternal search for truth and continuity.
The central plaza has been landscaped with Florida native plants and trees, and includes built-in benches and a sunken green. The plaza was designed by Renker Eich Parks (St. Petersburg, Fla.) and the landscape design was done by Graham-Booth Landscape Architecture (St. Petersburg, Fla.). Turner Tree & Landscape (Bradenton, Fla.) provided the landscaping material for the plaza and accomplished all of the plantings. The building’s architects are Moules & Polyzoides (Pasadena, Calif.).
The Academic Center and Koski Plaza are part of a plan envisioned by the architects to “densify” the campus around Bay Shore Road. This will eventually encompass new academic/classroom buildings on the north and south facing each other and a green quadrangle between them. These plans and several recent campus enhancements, which in addition to the Academic Center include five new residence halls opened in 2007, are all part of a Campus Master Plan adopted by New College’s Board of Trustees in 2006.