Interim President Hunter R. Rawlings III christened Klarman Hall the Seth ’79 and Beth Klarman Humanities Building Tuesday, sharing hopes that the structure will constitute a collaborative space for the Cornell community.
Along with speeches from Rawlings and the project’s contributors, the dedication ceremony featured an exhibit of the contents of the Klarman Hall time capsule, a video showing a “day in the life” of Klarman Hall and a performance of the Alma Mater by Cayuga’s Waiters.
Rawlings began the ceremony by stressing the importance of education in the humanities, a focus he said encourages students to develop the ability to think critically.
“Cornell’s dedication to the humanities stands at a marked contrast to much of the national discussion at universities in the public, which views college as a purely instrumental means of getting a job,” Rawlings said.
Seth Klarman agreed, citing concerns about recent campus movements against hosting speakers with controversial views and asserting that Klarman Hall should welcome free expression.
“You must bring speakers to campus, to Klarman Hall, with diverse ideas, speakers who will challenge people’s beliefs and moral perceptions, raise ideas and even say outrageous things,” he said. “You must bring them, even if what they say will be hard for some to hear.”
Klarman Hall’s purpose is to serve Cornell as a space to host discussions and construct a stronger community, according to Beth Klarman.
“Supporting this project aligns perfectly with our family’s key values,” she said. “We believe we have an obligation to give back and to turn our own experiences and challenges into opportunities to assist others who walk the same road.”
Gretchen Ritter, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said the building’s architecture highlights its intended role as a center for the humanities.
“It is open, it is welcoming, and it invites you to participate,” Ritter said. “The building’s architects envisioned the Groos Family Atrium … as an Italian piazza, a place of community, gathering and intersection.”
Ritter added that Klarman Hall’s location — between the Arts Quad and upper campus — symbolizes its connections to the College of Arts and Sciences and other schools.
Prof. Andrew Hicks, music, a member of the time capsule’s selection committee, praised the capsule project as a means to condense the writing, music and technology of the arts and sciences of 2016 in one place.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the current state in the humanities, to take stock of what we’re doing and to cast it forward with the hopes that it’s as strong or stronger 50 years from now,” Hicks said.