It will be a real building when completed, but St. Clair’s new Academic Tower was the subject of a “virtual” ground-breaking ceremony on September 16.
Assorted college officials, donors, local dignitaries, and the media gathered – some “live and in-person”, others on-line in an Microsoft Teams meeting – on that Wednesday morning to celebrate the construction-launch of the new building.
It takes the form of a $23 million, 52,000-square-foot expansion of the ground floor of the existing Student Centre, coupled with:
• a new second storey of several lecture halls, an open computer lab, collaborative space, a coffee shop, and staff offices;
• a third floor with one large (dividable) lecture hall, several smaller ones, study space, and casual space; and
• a fourth storey of open space for future expansion, and a fifth floor mechanical area.
The first floor expansion of the existing Student Centre will play host to a state-of-the-art “arena” for the college’s E-Sports/Saints Gaming team, and classroom and computer labs for the E-Sports Administration and Entrepreneurship program.
College President Patti France explained the need for the additional academic spacing by reflecting, “It was two years ago last month – August of 2018 – when we gathered downtown to announce the creation of a new campus to house many of our Business programs: an expansion made possible by the generous, $5 million donation from the Barry and Stephanie Zekelman Foundation. Remarkably, that expansion was not sufficient. In the two years between then and now, St. Clair’s enrolment – especially in Business and I.T. programs – has continued to increase at an astounding, rate. Even the pandemic has not significantly slowed it down.”
She added, “Since 2015, our enrolment in all schools – and college-wide – has increased by double-digit percentages (thanks, chiefly, to international enrolment). But in the School of Business and I.T., the enrolment has increased by triple digits, by approximately 100 percent, from 2,000 in 2015 to 4,000 last year, with a similar number anticipated this year.”
Also burgeoning during that time-span has been the college’s involvement in E-sports: both its pioneering introduction of academic programming in this field (E-Sports Administration and Entrepreneurship), and the creation of one of Canada’s first varsity E-sports teams.
In his remarks during the on-line ground-breaking, Student Representative Council (SRC) President Jorge Gutierrez Calzada said, “The SRC is also excited about this opportunity to refurbish and expand the Student Centre that we originally built in the mid-1990s. That will be highlighted by the creation of the new arena for the Saints Gaming team, that our council has managed since its founding. You might be interested to know that this team is not only intercollegiate but also international. Saint Gamers regularly play in a half-dozen seasonal leagues against college and university teams throughout Canada and the United States, and in on-line tournaments involving amateur and professional players from all over the world; and our e-athletes have been ranked in the top five of a number of their fields of competition. This new arena, featuring internet broadcasting capability, will give both them and the college – as an E-Sports pioneer – the recognition they deserve.”
For her part, St. Clair Board of Governors Chair Nancy Jammu-Taylor concentrated on the contribution of the Zekelman family and its foundation to the college’s development.
In addition to their patronage of the School of Business and I.T., she noted that the Zekelmans had funded the construction of the indoor tennis facility within the school’s new Sports Park, and one of their companies was contributing modular construction technology to the development of St. Clair’s new student residence.
The Zekelmans provide an admirable example to students, Jammu-Taylor said: “At the end of the day, at the end of the road, success isn’t all about the bottom line, about turning a healthy profit, about monetary wealth. True success isn’t entirely about what you can do for yourself, or your family, or your share-holders.
“It is, instead, about what you can do for others – for people who you don’t even know – in a human, humane, and philanthropic fashion, so that by bettering their circumstances, you better the world.
“The Zekelmans, through their corporations and their Foundation – and their personal example – have chosen to do just that for countless causes. Fortunately, bolstering postsecondary education is among those causes. And, very thankfully, the Zekelmans have chosen St. Clair to be the venue through which they pursue that goal.
“So,” Jammu-Taylor concluded, “to recent graduates and present-day and future students, I say: Take pride in your St. Clair College School of Business and I.T. education, and its resultant diploma or degree. But also remember the Zekelman name attached to it, and what it symbolizes: namely, both business acumen and, more importantly, an energetic and self-less concern for the well-being of one’s community. Remember that, and strive to live up to it.”
School of Business and I.T. Dean James Marsh echoed those comments about the Zekelmans, saying he hoped the college could instill both the family’s professional business skills and community spirit in all of it students.
Marsh also asserted that the E-Sports facility planned for the new building “will set the bar, internationally, for all such arenas.”
Tecumseh Mayor/Essex County Warden Gary McNamara also praised the Zekelmans, for “creating jobs, hope, prosperity and, most of all, opportunity.”
Barry Zekelman said he, his family and foundation were honoured to be involved in the expansion of the School of Business and I.T., as a “foundation for the dream-makers ... and community-builders ... of the future.”
He also recognized the increasingly large international component of St. Clair’s enrolment, noting “students from around the globe have the freedom to dream in Canada.”
Windsor City Councillor Jim Morrison echoed that sentiment. He said the city was excited and enriched by St. Clair’s international enrolment, because so many of the global scholars ultimately choose to remain in Windsor, contributing to the area’s development.