Friar Flashback: The Ruane Center for the Humanities

by The Cowl Editor on March 17, 2017


Nicholas Crenshaw ’20 / The COWL

by Marla Gagne ’19

News Co-Editor

“The beauty and elegance of the building matches the beauty and elegance of what takes place inside of it,” said Providence College philosophy professor and former Development of Western Civilization (DWC) Program director, Dr. Vance G. Morgan.  The “beauty and elegance” Morgan admiringly referenced was then the newest creation at PC, a hybrid of tradition, classical architecture, and the fast-paced technological world of the present. Today, we know it as the Ruane Center for the Humanities.

The Gothic style 63,000 square-foot building, most famous for its DWC lectures and seminars, was first constructed in 2012 after alumni Michael A. Ruane ’71 &’13 Hon. and his wife Elizabeth donated money for the new facility.  The building would open only 18 months later, becoming home to the School of Arts & Sciences, the Humanities, the DWC program, the Liberal Arts Honors Program, and the English and history departments.

For PC students today, Ruane is one of many buildings visited in their daily schedules, a hotspot for coffee lovers, and a great spot for studying. However, only four years ago the current seniors were entering Ruane as the first students to use the facility. Gabby Shkreli ’17 remembers walking into the archway of Ruane and “being in awe of its castle-like beauty.”

“Being able to experience Civ in Ruane made class exciting and enjoyable, especially since we would be the first class to do so,” stated Shkreli.

Like many of the buildings and facilities that have been built on campus over the last few years, Ruane was the creation of generous alumni donations and constant construction.

Mr. Ruane graduated PC with an economics degree and became the founding owner, chair, and managing partner of Boston-based TA Realty, one of the nation’s top real estate investment advisory firms.

The “building for the ages” was not only funded by a PC alumni but also designed by one. Daniel S. Kantor ’92, principal and chief financial officer of S/L/A/M Collaborative, and Gerald J. Sullivan ’86, a principal in Sullivan Buckingham Architects, brought the $21 million project to life by the fall of September 2013.

PC then welcomed Yale University grad, Pulitzer Prize winner, and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient David McCullough to dedicate the new building. Addressing an intimate crowd of 1,200 PC alumni, staff, and family during St. Dominic Weekend, McCullough was recorded in the Providence Journal saying, “I feel to the depths of my being that this emblematic new building is not only a step in the right direction for Providence College, but for our country. We need to be reminded about who we are and how we got to be who we are.”

McCullough would correctly predict how Ruane would become not only a center for the liberal arts, but a mediator between the past and present.


A Peek Inside: A New Era of Education

Ruane was designed in a Gothic style that features natural light and intricate masonry detailing, a tribute to Dominican tradition. Throughout its three levels, students are able to learn and study in new places for discussion.

Throughout the building, there are 181 rooms, including two lecture halls, two 50-60 seat classrooms, and numerous seminar spaces. All classrooms are equipped with up-to-date technology, including big screens and computers in lecture halls and flat screens and computers in seminar rooms.

During the groundbreaking of Ruane in 2012, Fr. Brian Shanley, O.P. ’80, said, “I am more excited about The Ruane Center for the Humanities than I have ever been about any new facility on this campus. Students learn differently now than they did 20 years ago…The Ruane Center will provide Providence College with state-of-the-art teaching and learning space that promotes dialogue between and among students and faculty while also encouraging greater student engagement in their scholarship and study.”

PC has continually pushed individual learning and open discussion, hoping for this idea to take shape in the new building and DWC program. Dr. Raymond Sickinger, professor and chairperson of the history department, agrees that Ruane has helped students taking DWC. “Ruane has enhanced the DWC experience. The large classrooms are not only better equipped for the best that technology can provide, they also provide a more flexible space to allow for some small group activities,” said Sickinger.

As a student, Shkreli felt the seminar rooms allowed her to be more involved in class and be part of the discussion, not just watch it. “Because I could see all of my classmates’s faces while discussion took place, Civ seminar felt much more personal and intimate. I loved that, when a teacher asked a question and someone answered, they were able to pose their answer to the whole class, rather than just back to the professor. In this way, Civ—and the professor—became much less intimidating and much more engaging.”

While Ruane is the center for learning, it also possesses unique features for students, faculty, and staff. Students can be found all night studying in the Great Room, the space notable for its cozy fireplace, Hogwarts-esque design, and go-to spot for intimate College functions. As midterms are in full swing, the Starbucks spot and connector between Ruane and the Phillips Memorial Library only seems to get busier.

The basement level is a “retreat space” that allows students, faculty, and staff to discuss and debate issues on the couches and six-person tables equipped with two computers, a printer, and a white board. When the weather is nice, students move their conversations outside to the first floor patio overlooking the pathway to Slavin. Students also collaborate in a special spot on the second floor, the watchtower classroom that gives students a 180-degree view of the campus and a chance to sit at the desk of former President Woodrow Wilson.

While the building is often noticed for its design, its style goes beyond just looking good.

Carly Martino ’19 believes PC focused on giving the building a classical look because Civ is all about revisiting the classics. The building makes Martino “feel like you can ‘transport’ into that time period.”

Shkreli, a marketing major with an English minor, has also enjoys the new Arthur F. and Patricia School of Business Studies. “Yet, whereas the business center, for me at least, symbolizes growth, innovation, and hope for the future, I think Ruane is so important and special because it serves as a reminder of our past, a representation of our roots as a people,” said Shkreli.

Almost four years ago, PC set out to create a new style space for collaborative  and community learning with the newest resources while also maintaining its Dominican and Liberal Arts identity. And as the campus continues to expand and other colleges move away from the small liberal arts community, many faculty, staff, and students believe Ruane will keep the campus rooted to its core values.

Dr. Steven Lynch, English professor and director of the Liberal Arts Honors Program, said, “Many colleges and universities are shifting resources away from the humanities—and I think in the long run that will prove a mistake. Here at PC we are fighting an uphill battle because so many students want to major in something immediately marketable. But the Ruane Center will serve as a reminder every day for students and faculty that a seriously educated person must be grounded in the humanities.”