Bridgewater College celebrates opening of John Kenny Forrer Learning Commons
Bridgewater College students, faculty and staff were welcomed into the John Kenny Forrer Learning Commons Monday to celebrate the opening of the facility and the completion of the $13.2 million renovation-and-expansion project that transformed the Alexander Mack Memorial Library into a modern learning hub.
“The opening of the John Kenny Forrer Learning Commons is the culmination of nearly six years of study, architectural design and building construction. This state-of-the-art home for research, engaged learning and student success is at the heart of our mission and our commitment to students, faculty and staff and the broader community,” said Bridgewater College President Dr. David Bushman.
The project began with the formation of a vision committee in 2014, led by John Kenny Forrer Learning Commons Director Andrew Pearson and Director of Information Technology Kristy Rhea. The Forrer Learning Commons was designed to connect students with support and services for college success and career development in a collaborative learning environment.
“As director of the Forrer Learning Commons, it is a special joy to be able to see a vision translated into reality,” Pearson said. “We designed its spaces to reflect the many different ways students learn, study and socialize. And we capped the experience by offering students core academic services in one place.”
As the academic centerpiece on campus, the Forrer Learning Commons is home to the Alexander Mack Memorial Collections (including 90,000 volumes), Special Collections and the Morgridge Center for Collaborative Learning. The Morgridge Center houses media production, peer coaching and tutoring, the Writing Center, Career Services, IT assistance and research and information literacy support. Designed to inspire learning in community, the Forrer Learning Commons features flexible study spaces that allow creative thinking to flourish. Moveable furniture accommodates needs in each space: from small and large group meetings, to engaged learning classrooms, private study carrels and a practice presentation room.
Indoor gathering spaces provide opportunities for connections between students, faculty and community members. The main floor features the Smith Family Learning Commons Café (nicknamed Smitty’s), the Robert H. and Mary Susan King Portico and the Beverly Perdue Art Gallery, designed to serve as a premier exhibition space. The top level boasts expansive views of the campus mall, with a Class of ‘69 Great Room that offers comfortable seating for casual conversations or quiet reading. The lower level is home to the Alexander Mack Memorial Collections, Special Collections, an archival reading room and more.
Intentionally designed outdoor spaces around the building, including Alison’s Reading Terrace and the Wampler Family Plaza, offer ample opportunity for additional interaction and engagement.
“We know that learning should not be confined to the classroom or the lab. The Forrer Learning Commons will allow faculty and students to expand their collaborations in a vibrant space designed specifically to encourage creativity and communication,” said Dr. Leona Sevick, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs.
Lead donors for the project Bonnie Rhodes, a ’62 alumna of the College, and her husband, John, named the building after her father, John Kenny Forrer. At the groundbreaking ceremony in May 2018, Mrs. Rhodes said, “We are so pleased to make the love of learning available to the next generation of scholars and memorialize my father in this way.”
The capital project was funded through major donor investments, including a lead gift from the Morgridge Family Foundation and John and Carrie Morgridge, for whom the Morgridge Center for Collaborative Learning is named.
“More than 90 percent of the funding for the John Kenny Forrer Learning Commons has come from donors—the most successful single fundraising project in the College’s history and a true testament to the dedication of our donors and their commitment to our students and to the future of Bridgewater College,” said Dr. Maureen Silva, Vice President for Institutional Advancement.
The Alexander Mack Memorial Library opened in September 1963. The 50,000-volume library was designed to allow for maximum flexibility, including varied seating and study options. As a modern academic library, the Forrer Learning Commons renews a commitment to student success in an innovative and collaborative environment.
Bridgewater College is a private, four-year liberal arts college located in the Central Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Founded in 1880, it was the state’s first private, coeducational college. Today, Bridgewater College is home to nearly 1,800 students in both undergraduate and graduate programs.