When Gannett Health Center is done with its $55 million, 27,000 square feet expansion, it is set to re-brand and expand as Cornell Health.
The Gannett Foundation originally donated significant funds to the health center and the building was named after media mogul Frank Gannett 1898. Despite the name change, officials say the new health center will still honor the Gannett legacy.
“Those gifts will be recognized in perpetuity by the public display of historic plaques in the renovated part of the facility [and] the health services facility, a former faculty residence that occupied this location before the Gannett facility was built,” said Sharon Dittman, associate director of community relations for Gannett.
The project recently completed the first phase of construction this July, which involved building an addition to the back of the current building. It is currently on the second phase, which involves renovating the original building and connecting it to the addition. The renovation is expected to expand the health center’s usable space from 25,000 to 52,000 square feet and will include up-to-date medical facilities, an expanded pharmacy and more examination rooms.
Expanding and renovating the University’s health center has been a priority for the Cornell administration since 2005, when an independent study concluded that Gannett was “significantly undersized to serve the campus population.”
“Cornell Health is being built on the foundation of Cornell’s 118 year investment in student health, and, more literally, on the foundation of the Gannett Clinic,” Dittman said. “Since Gannett opened its doors 60 years ago, the student body has almost doubled in size, and the scope of our operations and size of our staff has expanded; our mission has moved well beyond the original model of care for sick students to encompass broad support for student and campus health.”
Officials said they decided to change the name of the health center to reinforce the idea that this year’s reconstruction is not just a renovation — it’s a rebuilding.
“‘Cornell Health’ is not so much a ‘rebranding’ of Gannett as it is a new name for a nearly entirely new facility, with the original building undergoing extensive demolition and complete renovation, and the addition more than doubling the usable space,” Dittman said. “Cornell Health also is a new name for our department, which has been known as University Health Services.”
After the University approved the rebuilding plans, stakeholders began to discuss an appropriate name for the building and the department. University communications staff began a research project in the spring of 2014 that included a review of planning documents of the new facility; interviews with health services staff, University stakeholders and students; and an audit of college health program names.
“Cornell Health was selected due to its widespread support [and] clarity,” said Dittman. “It supports the centrality of individual and campus health to Cornell’s mission, speaks to the shared priority of keeping students healthy and thriving, is expansive to support the innovations and changes that will be necessary to provide access to care, and recognized the unique combination and commitment of donors of the funds used to build the new facility.”
Many students said they have been unaffected by the impending name change, choosing instead to focus on the facility’s increased functionality.
“I am rather indifferent about the name change, and I’ll probably still call it Gannett,” said Samir Jain ’19. “I just hope that the expansion is good for the students, especially considering all the money that is being put into the project.”
However, other students say they see the name change as a positive step for the center, even if the new name doesn’t catch on right away.
“I think it’s good that [the university] is changing the name to Cornell Health, but I would still call it Gannett” says Raashed Raziuddin ’19. “I didn’t know that Gannett was for Cornell students — when I passed by it [my freshman year], I thought it was just an office building. Cornell Health makes it a lot more clear that it is for students.”
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly identified alumnus Frank Gannett as a member of the class of 1989. In fact, he was a member of the class of 1898.