To build an open, diverse, and inclusive community, we set the goal of reflecting national diversity on our campus, and the Class of 2021 came in on target. Not only is this the largest incoming class in many years, but also its students come from all over the country and all walks of life. We recognize the continued need for initiatives and programs that help us all be the best versions of ourselves—supporting our students in the classroom, on campus, and in town. Fortunately, no one to whom I have spoken has shrunk from this task, and student leaders are at the forefront, just where we would hope they would be.
In fact, it was talking about our momentum in building this diverse and supportive community of learners that helped inspire the recent $1 million scholarship gift from Murray and Jean Swindell, '56 '58. This couple from New England, who hadn't been back to Albion in decades, specifically said they like what they're seeing from their alma mater and generously acted on it, wanting not only to help our students but also to broaden Albion's national recognition. As we continue to use the Strategic Plan to direct and accelerate our momentum, it is helping to inspire alumni and donors.
Effectively stewarding resources is not only smart, forward thinking, but also can be an ideal way to honor our past. I've rarely heard of a building spoken of in the way that people speak of the Washington Gardner building on Michigan Avenue. Throughout the Strategic Planning process, any number of ideas have been proposed for the building, and we've begun to see some of them bear fruit by letting the building serve as a site for innovative solutions to needs on campus.
Along with the occasional auditorium performance and important gathering spot for events like the MLK Day of Dialogue and Service, we've revitalized several spaces inside. A student fitness facility and golf simulator have been installed (each with donor support), and the Art and Art History Department has gotten much needed studio space. A fun side note: first-year student Justin Kapke was named all-MIAA in men's golf this fall—maybe all that extra work in the conveniently located simulator helped! (Congratulations, Justin!)
There's a vibrancy on campus and in town as well as we work hard to forge sustainable local partnerships. More and more students are using the Ludington Center downtown as the Ford Institute, Gerstacker Institute, and Career and Internship Center build their presence in the building, and more and more classes are being scheduled in the classrooms as faculty and students maximize their flexibility for active learning. As the street, brewpub, and hotel open, we expect new opportunities we might not have imagined just a couple years ago to present themselves.
In our planning process, an array of needs for new learning spaces came to light, and we were asked to think creatively about the ways in which such spaces could be integrated with our hopes for a more vibrant partnership with our community. Over the course of six months, many dedicated, creative people from the college, the community, and the board collaborated to develop ideas to bring students, community members, and local youth together through theater. The Carl A. Gerstacker Foundation graciously offered to support their work through a $500 thousand grant that will help us purchase and renovate two store fronts near the Bohm Theater for a new studio theater space.
As we continue to execute on our Strategic Plan, we expect any number of new, creative ideas and projects come to the fore. Stay tuned!