posted on: Thursday August 31, 2017
by Sabrina Guilbeault ’18
Calabria Family Gives Donation For Construction of a Torch on Slavin Lawn
Slavin Lawn has been the home to a wide variety of campus activity at Providence College, from lounging and playing yard games during the first days of spring, to carnivals and cookouts that kick off the school year. In celebration of PC’s next century, Slavin Lawn will now be home to a new addition to the College’s architecture, an addition symbolizing light, truth, and the Dominican tradition.
Construction of the Calabria Plaza, which includes a giant sculpture of a torch, is currently underway, and the project is set to be completed by the beginning of November. “The construction of the Torch and Plaza during our Centennial Year will mark the ending of our first century and the beginning of the opportunities available to Providence College over the next 100 years,” said John Sweeney, chief financial officer of the College. “It is meant as place to remember as well as to inspire.”
Joseph ’65 and ’93P and Sugar ’93P Calabria were inspired by the image of the torch, and donated this “birthday gift” to the College to kick off the public portion of the Providence College Capital Campaign. “The Calabria family wanted to create a dramatic symbol to inspire the Providence College Community and honor all of the Dominican Friars who have served us,” said Sweeney. “Joe and Sugar have been very generous to Providence College over the years and felt this was a lasting way to recognize the important role the College and the Dominicans have had in their lives.”
The donation from the Calabria family will cover the cost of the project in its entirety (and will be in the range of $500,000 to $1,000,000). Sweeney stated that the Calabrias have made donations to virtually every major area of the College.
In keeping with the function and purpose of Slavin Lawn as a public gathering place, the Calabria family wanted the area surrounding the torch to be a place where all members of the College community could come to gather and to reflect on the torch as a symbol of light and truth. Around the bench seating, the plaza will hold a wall of black granite with inscriptions that include a list of Dominican saints, PC’s Alma Mater, and inspirational quotes.
The torch, the official symbol of Providence College, is very much associated with the Dominican Order and its founder, St. Dominic. Sweeney explained that before Dominic’s birth, his mother, Jane of Aza, had a vision of a hound racing through the world with a flaming torch in its mouth that “ignited everything it touched.”
“I think our flame is a big part of who we are as Friars, so it is cool that we are adding something like this to our campus atmosphere,” said Kasey Cardin ’18. “I don’t know if this is something our campus necessarily needed, but I’m excited to see what it looks like when it is finished.” She explained that she is glad she’ll get to see the completed project during her senior year.
Megan Manning ’18 shared a view similar to Cardin’s. “It’s going to look really good on campus, but I think there is better use of our financial resources,” she said, and expressed that there were other aspects of the College that could have benefitted from the gift. “I’m really excited to see the torch, but do we really need the torch?”
The idea of building the torch was incorporated into the Campus Transformation plan during the Fall of 2014. The original concept showed that the torch would have a living and eternal flame, but according to Sweeney, there was a thought that the flame might be insensitive to the memory of the 10 students who lost their lives in the 1977 Aquinas fire.
Stephen Forneris ’90 and ’18P, an architect involved with the Ruane Friar Development Center, was asked by Sweeney to conceptualize the torch symbol in an abstract way, and his version of the torch was adopted with some modifications by SLAM Collaborative and sculptor Brian Hanlon. Sweeney mentioned that Mark Rapoza, assistant vice president of capital projects and facilities magement at the College, has been instrumental in bringing this project to fruition, and Associate Athletic Director Steve Napolillo secured support for this project.
“It will be an interesting visual on Slavin,” said Aine Redington ’20. “It’s cool to see the construction happening, and nice to know it will be completed this semester.” She also mentioned that she will be interested to see how it changes the dynamic of “Slavin Beach,” as during the warmer days in the spring semester, Slavin Lawn fills up with blankets and lounging students who are soaking in all the rays they can before finals.
“It is the symbol of the light of truth,” said Sweeney. “As a Dominican institution, we strive to form our students into seekers of truth, insight, enlightenment, and understanding.” He explained it is for this reason the College’s seal representing Veritas will be found on the sculpture, and also explained that the torch is a symbol of the preaching of grace. “The Friars are called to ‘set the world ablaze’ with their preaching of the good news,” he said.