November 2, 2017
Wheaton College’s new Welcome Center is set to officially open on Monday, Nov. 13. The 11,600 square foot building sits on the corner of College Ave. and Chase St. at the front of campus. It is set to be the new home of the Admissions department as well as a grand foyer called the Great Hall, which will be used as a gathering space for campus visitors. The plans for the new building were passed in June 2016. According to Campus Architect Bruce Koenigsberg, although there were some concerns about recent construction from the campus’s Northern neighbors, all concerns were met and resolved before groundbreaking. Koenigsberg said that the new Welcome Center was happily accepted by the College’s neighbors as well as the City Council.
Walking into the Welcome Center from one of the main doors, one enters into the open Great Hall, which features seating and a fireplace designed to welcome prospective students to campus. According to Koenigsberg, the building was constructed to fit the curve of the street on which it rests and is staggered to fit that curve. East of the Great Hall are meeting rooms and conference rooms for hosting visitors, designed to make the visitation experience more easily accessible to prospective students and their families. Past these rooms are the Advisors and Admissions offices. The further East one walks, the more business-oriented the building feels, Koenigsberg said.
Architects planned the interior and exterior of the building to reflect characteristics from other notable buildings on campus. The limestone on the sides of the building is intended to mirror that of the nearby Blanchard Hall, while the brick facade is designed to mirror that of Edman Chapel and the residence halls. The window placements resemble those found in McManis and Evans Halls on the other side of Anderson Commons. Koenigsberg says that the aesthetic of the building is supposed be the most closely related to Blanchard Hall, and the similarities are intended to draw visitors from the Welcome Center to the nearby historic building and then on to the rest of campus. Koenigsberg hopes that the stonework and woodwork will provide a homey, welcoming feel to visitors. Aside from these similarities, the new building will have a wooden frame and a shingled gable roof that is visible from the inside of the adjacent Anderson Commons.
According to Wheaton Magazine, the main motivation for the new project was to create a place for new and prospective students to get all they need without having to walk all over campus. The Admissions office had received many complaints in the past saying that the office was hard to find, which detracted from Wheaton’s desirability and students’ first impressions. Shawn Leftwich Wynne, director of Undergraduate Admissions, said that a consultant, who was brought on campus to address the problem, said “we were giving the impression that visitors weren’t welcome and weren’t anticipated. The consultant correlated our building with a feeling that we didn’t care about visitors,” said Wynne in a response in Wheaton Magazine.
In an attempt to fix this problem, the new building will be the main house for admissions and is prominently placed in the front of campus on College Ave. According to the College website, the new space is referred to as “The Front Door” of campus and is meant to be the first impression for prospective students, 80 percent of whom come to Wheaton out of state or internationally.
The total cost of the project was 4.7 million dollars, funded entirely by gifts and donations via the From the Heart, For the Kingdom campaign. No campus funding was used in the construction of the building. According to Wheaton’s website, $1.6 million currently remains to be raised before the completion of the building in three weeks.