A TRANSFORMATIONAL Gift: College Breaks Ground On Roger and Francine Jean Student Center Complex

What do you call a gift that changes everything? A gift that makes the impossible possible?
Extraordinary. Visionary. But most of all, transformational.

Roger and Francine Jean Student Center Complex groundbreakingThat’s exactly what trustee Roger L. Jean ’70, HD ’06 and his wife, Francine aimed for when they made the largest individual gift in Saint Anselm College history. A gift that will make an expansion and renovation of the Student Center possible. A gift that will provide the entire community with a dynamic new gathering place in the very center of campus—and a new way of life and learning for Anselmians.

The Jeans’ $6 million unrestricted commitment was announced on October 13 by President Steven R. DiSalvo, Ph.D. during a groundbreaking ceremony for the new facility, which is slated for completion in early 2018. It will fittingly be known as The Roger and Francine Jean Student Center Complex.

For the past several years, the college has been in the quiet phase of a capital campaign, garnering over $39.6 million in commitments so far. The public phase of the campaign, which focuses on top priorities of enhancing academic excellence, strengthening our Benedictine living and learning community, growing the endowment and the Saint Anselm Fund, will begin next fall. The Student Center has long been identified as a lead priority in helping the college to achieve these strategic goals; now, through the generosity of the Jeans and other donors, that transformative vision is beginning to become a reality.

Extraordinary People
Born and raised in Manchester N.H., Roger Jean attended Saint Anselm as a self described “‘townie.’ I lived with my parents and worked 30 hours a week at a local retail establishment while going to school.” Despite the fact that the former history major did not have a traditional undergraduate experience on the Hilltop, he still felt close to the college and the monastic community. He was especially close to Father Brendan Donnelly, O.S.B. ’43. (Academic Dean at that time). “I certainly was not a straight A student and I credit his advice and council as key to having a successful four-year college experience,” Roger says. Father Brendan later became the seventh president of the college.

Roger retired in 2006 as Executive Vice President of the Liberty Mutual Group as well as President of Liberty’s Regional Agency Markets business unit. His remarkably successful career in the insurance industry spanned over 35 years, in addition to which he has served on many industry, for-profit and non-profit boards in both the United States and Canada. New Hampshire non-profits on the list include The United Way, Animal Rescue League of N.H., Daniel Webster Council—Boy Scouts of America and N.H. Public Radio. He also served on the N.H. Business and Industry Association Board.

Roger and Francine, a graduate of Suffolk University in Boston, met while both were working at Utica National Insurance Company's regional office in Burlington, Mass., and married in 1980. Roger spent most of his career working for International Netherlands Group (ING), at the time a leading Dutch worldwide financial services organization. His career took the couple to Toronto for five years (where he was CEO of ING's Canadian general insurance operation). Subsequently they returned to the United States and in the early 1990s Roger was named CEO of ING’s United States general insurance operations.

Roger has been a member of the Board of Trustees of Saint Anselm College since 1998. He was awarded an honorary doctor of laws in 2006 “in recognition of his life’s work, his compassion for people and concern for future generations of Saint Anselm students.”

Over time, Francine became as committed to Saint Anselm as Roger. “Everyone has always been so welcoming, and when I saw the depth of commitment to the college not only from the monastic community but also from the administration, the faculty and the students I was really amazed,” she says. “I know this is not unique to Saint Anselm, but here it is special.”

These dedicated Anselmians strongly believe that no qualified student should be denied a Saint Anselm education because of financial need; in particular, they note that while Roger’s own college experience was fulfilling and meaningful, their wish for today’s students is that they be able to take advantage of all the college has to offer, both on and off campusfrom volunteering, to participating in clubs and sports, to studying abroad.

With that in mind, they established the Roger and Francine Jean Endowed Scholarship Fund in 2003, as well as the Roger and Francine Jean Annual Scholarship Fund in 2007; both provide assistance for New Hampshire students with need. The Endowed Scholarship Fund has helped 21 students so far, and over the years, the Jeans have generously increased the Annual Scholarship Fund with the purpose of providing each student to whom it is awarded assistance for all four years at the college.

“It’s not the ideal situation to work 30-40 hours and go to school full time; we don’t want the college to lose a student with potential when this scholarship program can help them,” says Francine. “I think that’s why it is so important; to give those students the opportunity.” The Jeans hope to make the scholarship program the largest at Saint Anselm in the future.

Roger realizes that the higher education landscape today is challenging, and that attracting qualified prospective students in a competitive market is certainly a concern for any institution. He feels that the new Student Center Complex will help the college to thrive in that market.

“The Student Center stood out to us in part because of discussions in Trustee meetings about the importance of a Student Center Complex and the fact that we were lacking one. It seemed like a potential negative, in terms of recruiting the best students. The new complex will be one of the core benefits appealing to prospective students and their parents.”

“That was really important to us. We want Saint Anselm to be their first choice,” says Francine.

Roger and Francine Jean Student Center Complex groundbreaking

“In a number of ways, for me, Saint Anselm has always been there in some way shape or form when I needed support or assistance,” says Roger. “There always seemed to be a positive answer to whatever it was I was looking for on campus. Whether it was a conversation with one of the monks, or just sitting in the Abbey Church and reflecting on a particular situation, the institution was always there for me. I don’t think that is a unique experience; but I do think it’s an Anselmian experience. I have talked to a number of graduates and many of them have had experiences that mirror my own.”

The Jeans have homes in Bedford and on Lake Winnipesaukee in N.H., as well as in Naples, Fla., where they have hosted several receptions for alumni. While in residence there, they enjoy attending cultural events at Artis-Naples, a world-class center for performing and visual arts, particularly the Naples Philharmonic. That is, when they’re not busy exploring the globe; Roger has travelled to over 90 countries and Fran has visited over 80. They recently completed an “around the world” trip with National Geographic, and upcoming travel plans include northern Spain and Portugal, as well as an American cross-country drive. But no matter where they may roam, as loyal Anselmians they’ve frequently returned to campus for college events.

“It’s rare you meet people like Roger and Francine, who are so passionate about this institution and what it stands for, and are generous people, who are focused on making sure that we can serve our students in the best possible way,” says Dr. DiSalvo. “And that’s what this transformational gift really is about—it’s creating space that is conducive to the academic, social and spiritual development of our students. They are lovely people who have done something very, very extraordinary.”

A Magnet For Students
The plan to renovate, expand and update the existing Cushing Student Activities Center has been years in the making.

The original facility was built in 1960 during a period of significant campus growth under the guidance of then-president Father Gerald McCarthy, O.S.B. (later Abbot Gerald) and the first Advisory Board of Trustees, which was established to assist the president in planning for the advancement of the college.

Their first recommendation in 1957 was that Saint Anselm commence a building project in anticipation of meeting the goal of doubling the student population to 1,200 students in 10 years. This project recognized the need for more buildings to house students, classrooms, laboratories, and a library, as well as a student union and cafeteria. As a result, six new campus buildings were completed in 1960, including the Student Activities Center, which was dedicated in 1964 in honor of college friend and benefactor Richard Cardinal Cushing of the Archdiocese of Boston. Cardinal Cushing generously supported the construction of the Abbey Church and was a great friend to the Benedictine community.

“The Student Center Complex is going to serve students in many different ways; socialization, personal reflection, learning,” says Dr. DiSalvo. “It really will become the center of life here—it physically sits in the center of everything, in proximity to residence halls, to the dining hall, to academic buildings. It’s going to attract students from all over campus.”

In order to provide an updated and expanded space for community gathering and activities for today’s students, it would be necessary to embark on a substantial improvement project. It was also necessary to ensure that any work done on the Student Center would extend the established Benedictine-inspired commitment to living learning communities on campus by integrating the spiritual, academic and social components of life at the college into one central hub.

Roger Jean agrees: “It’s important that we call it a complex—because between connecting the Student Center to Stoutenburgh and including the bookstore and so many other things into one big community place, students can spend a good amount of time there—studying volunteering, doing it all in one location,” he says. “It should be a magnet for students.”

Making It Happen
In 2015, an Executive Committee made up of administrators, faculty members and student representatives was convened to facilitate the planning process. All departments currently housed in the Cushing Student Center, including Campus Ministry, the Career Development Center, the Meelia Center for Community Engagement and the Fr. Jonathan DeFelice Multicultural Center, were consulted by the Committee in order to discern their needs for more efficient space.

Meetings were also held with the Student Government Association (SGA), and Chris Griebel ’16 served as the student representative to the Executive Committee during his junior and senior years. As Senator for the Class of 2016 both years, the history major from Lynn, Mass., also served as Welfare Chair and was responsible for providing a voice for less-involved students to SGA. When Dean Alicia Finn asked him to play a similar role for the Executive Committee, he was honored to accept.

In March 2015, Griebel invited the student body to a meeting intended to provide them with background and an opportunity to give input on the project. Students filled out surveys designed by SGA to discern student priorities for the new complex. “It was important to make sure that student responses were being discussed and acknowledged,” says Chris.

The results of the survey showed that Saint Anselm students were most interested in spending time in a new Student Center with the following features:

  1. Modern space with colors that pop
  2. Big windows and lots of natural light
  3. More couches, comfortable chairs, and TVs
  4. Private study areas as well as open common areas
  5. Group study rooms
  6. Printing stations
  7. Convenience store
  8. Theater
  9. More room for student clubs
  10. Game room for pool, ping pong, and video games

In the spring of 2016, Chris presented the preliminary designs and floor plans to his peers. “We wanted to make sure that current students could see what the architect’s plans were: what was included and what wasn’t, what they liked and disliked, and most importantly, what feedback I could pass along to the Executive Committee.”

Many students felt that the new complex needed “an updated look, inside and out—it should be bright with lots of windows like the Living Learning Commons.”

“When you walk into Cushing it feels more like a library than a Student Center, with students working quietly,” says Griebel. “I thought it was important (and a lot of students felt this way) that the new Student Center Complex should be a very active, fun place to go.”

Chris is also enthusiastic about the possibilities for recruiting prospective students: “With the new entrance to campus now leading right to the new Student Center, and then you turn and see Alumni Hall; it’s a done deal that students will want to come here.”

In June 2016, the Board of Trustees approved moving forward with “enabling activities” for the project, moving some offices out of the existing Cushing Student Center in preparation for construction, as well as continued work on financing and with architects. The needed approvals and endorsements from the Town of Goffstown, the New Hampshire Governor’s Executive Council, the incorporated entity of Saint Anselm College, the Finance and Facilities Committee of the Board of Trustees, and finally, the full approval of the Board itself followed in early September.

SOUTHWEST VIEWSOUTHWEST VIEW: View from present-day Cushing Parking Lot, showing the new entrance to the glass-enclosed Campus Store/Bookstore accessible from the lower level.

Designing A New Anselmian Landmark
The college has retained BHDP Architecture, known for its designs for workplace, retail, higher education, science and industrial organizations worldwide for over 75 years, to design the expanded facility, which will extend the existing 40,705 square foot Cushing Center by 12,575 square feet (for a total of 53,280 square feet). Derck & Edson, a renowned land planning, site design and civil engineering firm specializing in enhancing campuses, downtowns, and athletics created the college’s campus enhancement plan in the winter of 2014, and will be designing the landscape architecture for the Student Center Complex. Eckman Construction, a long-time partner of the college which has built many of the buildings on campus, will once again serve as the  Construction Management Company.

Kevin Denman, Architectural Project Manager for BHDP, explains that BHDP went through a discovery process with the Executive Committee, producing a vision document that ultimately stipulated that “the new Student Center at Saint Anselm College will be an active and fluid space, promoting openness, integration and inclusiveness. It will reflect the heritage and tradition of the college while serving as a beacon to the future.” This vision led to the guiding principals for the project, which were that the Student Center should be:

  • An activity hub
  • Accessible to the student population
  • Inviting
  • Student-focused
  • Inspiring
  • Balanced

“While the college of course had a Student Center, it wasn’t necessarily student-focused,” says Denman. “One of the key components in the new building is that there is a large area reserved for student organizations, where (with guidance from the Office of Student Activities and Leadership Programs) students can assign dedicated spaces to different organizations and give them a home base.

As you move into the building, the primary driver is to create a lot of transparency and open, fluid spaces. The idea is to drive activity—we do that by creating circulation through the center.”

The planned designs presented by Denman, Lead Designer Giancarlo Del Vita and Paul Orban, Principal in Charge, maintain the integrity of the Georgian architecture and decorative elements derived from other campus buildings, including arched windows reminiscent of Davison Hall, and a stained glass window feature on the ground floor west façade representative of the college’s Benedictine identity and the Abbey Church.

Plans for the allocation of space within the new complex have been made with the intention both of increasing the functionality of the space, and of providing thematic elements of Anselmian life for each floor. The second floor “theme” will be academic success, with the Academic Resource Center including a dedicated classroom and ample space for writing tutoring, as well as private testing rooms. Offices of two academic deans will also be located on this floor.

The first floor will be dedicated to programs at the core of the college’s mission, including Campus Ministry, the Meelia Center for Community Engagement, the Multicultural Center and the Career Development Center. The Campus Store/Bookstore and a new cafe, managed by in-house Dining Services staff, will also be located on this level. Stoutenburgh Gymnasium will now be connected via a walkway to the Student Center, allowing for events like pre and post-game receptions to be held in the new spaces that this renovation and expansion will create. And finally, access to the complex from the lower campus will also be greatly enhanced, with a new entrance to the glass-enclosed Campus Store located where the loading dock currently stands.

The ground level will be dedicated to student life, housing the Student Government Association, Student Activities and Leadership Programs, the Mail Center, and the Health Center. New spaces for student organizations, a game room and dedicated study space, including a number of group study rooms, will also be found on this floor.

Additional new features include a second-floor, glass-windowed flexible function room on the north side (where the North Lounge is currently located), which will present a sweeping view of Alumni Hall and the quad. “The glassed in event space is particularly compelling,” says Denman. “It’s more than what it’s doing on the inside; outside, it’s creating a beacon for the campus. Especially at night, it will glow.”

An auditorium seating approximately 250 will be located on the southeast side, providing the community with an option “between sizes” of what is currently available on campus for large presentations, lectures and performances (the 550-seat Dana Center or Perini Lecture Hall, which seats 120).

The Student Center Complex will be constructed using sustainability best practices and guidelines; all of the carpeting will be low VOC and all lighting will be LED for cleaner air and lower energy use. Occupancy sensors will shut down room lights when they are not in use for added efficiency. A new HVAC with a high efficiency rating will be installed and the building will now be air conditioned. Lastly, it will fully meet all ADA standards, with all entrances, hardware, restrooms and elevators accessible for disabilities.

NORTHWEST VIEWNORTHWEST VIEW: View from present-day Hilary Hall lawn, showing the second-floor, glass-windowed flexible function room (currently the North Lounge) with a sweeping view of Alumni Hall and the Quad.

Breaking New Ground
The groundbreaking ceremony was held on October 13 in front of the Cushing Student Center. Board Chair Joanne Pietrini Smith ’85 gave welcoming remarks, followed by Chair of the Board of Trustees Campaign Committee Richard Meelia ’71, who gave an update on the progress in fundraising so far. Meelia, the benefactor of the college’s Meelia Center for Community Engagement, has also made a generous leadership gift and will continue to guide fundraising for the campaign moving forward.

Dr. DiSalvo then spoke about the renovated Student Center as “a functional, beautiful, and central hub for all members of our community to experience Anselmian life to the fullest,” and described the ways in which the thematic floors and new features in the complex will enhance campus life. He also thanked the design and planning teams, as well as the lead donors, for their support.

“Roger and Francine describe the Student Center as a ‘catalyst for the college to challenge itself,’ and it is with great faith in the future that we commit today to doing so,” he said. “This gift will transform the center of our campus, and our deepest thanks and appreciation go out to those who have made it possible to launch this project, which will forever enrich our landscape and the experience of our students.”

Dr. DiSalvo introduced the Jeans, at which time student participants revealed t-shirts with “Roger and Francine Jean Student Center Complex” and the Twitter hashtag #AnselmianFuture, which will be used by the Anselmian community online to express their thanks to the Jeans and their excitement about the renovation.

Roger expressed his and Francine’s pleasure at the entire community’s anticipation, saying “it’s great to see so many students, because in the end this project is for you.” He spoke of the Student Center Complex’s potential to have a significant benefit to the college’s future, both for campus life and for recruiting prospective students, and voiced the couple’s continued Anselmian dedication by concluding: “It is our way to continue to give back to an old friend that has given us so much.”

On behalf of the student community, Emma Bishop ’18 and Brandon Pratt ’18 (SGA President and Vice President) then unveiled a rendering of the front entrance of the Student Center Complex, and presented the Jeans with a framed photo and commemorative t-shirts.

Finally, Abbot Mark Cooper, O.S.B. ’71, chancellor of the college, gave a blessing for the construction:

"Dear friends, the work we are beginning today as we break ground for our new Student Center should both enliven our faith and make us grateful. We know the familiar words of the psalm: If the Lord does not build a house, in vain do its builders labor. God has given this Saint Anselm College so many blessings over the past century and a quarter, and continues to do so to this very day. In this blessing we come together as God's co-workers, and so let us turn to him in prayer that he will bring this construction to successful completion and that his protection will keep those who work on it safe from harm and injury."

Roger and Francine Jean Student Center Complex groundbreakingFaith In The Future
Construction will be ongoing on the Roger and Francine Jean Student Center Complex until the projected completion in early 2018, while fundraising will continue with the objective of raising 50% of the total $16.5 million project cost.

The Jeans look forward to a bright future for Saint Anselm College, and Roger hopes that this is only the beginning: “For me, this is a catalyst for the college to challenge itself to identify what it truly wants to be in the future. But it’s only Chapter One of what should be a much longer book when it comes to our asking the right questions about how we transform ourselves into everything we aspire to. What is the very best Saint Anselm College that we can be?”

“When you get a significant gift that can transform a campus, it is the leverage for others to step up and do other extraordinary things,” says Dr. DiSalvo. “This isn’t just about the campus landscape; its about programmatic development, about potential expansion for the college in every sense. But it requires others to come forward. We have faith that they will do that once they hear what has been accomplished through Roger and Francine’s generosity, the generosity of our other donors, and the hard work of everyone on campus to make this kind of transformational change happen for our students.”

Saint Anselm College welcomes inquiries about giving and naming opportunities associated with the Roger and Francine Jean Student Center Complex expansion project. For more information, please contact:

James F. Flanagan, Senior Vice President College Advancement
Saint Anselm College
(603) 641-7221