On Friday, December 2 — the day after the senior class was given a sneak preview of the eagerly anticipated space — the doors of the new Student Center in Stewart Gym opened to the entire EHS campus community.
Head of School Charley Stillwell delivered opening remarks, thanking all whose hard work and generosity allowed for the building transformation; Head Chaplain Betsy Gonzalez shared a blessing; and Keeling Pilaro ’17 cut the ribbon, signaling that the time had come to check out the space.
Students rushed the building, where they were greeted with delicious treats, comfortable seating areas, and pool and ping pong tables which they wasted no time breaking in. The 12,706-square foot space houses the school store, post office, snack bar, multiple seating areas, performance stage, TV room, gaming area, and more. A beautiful patio and terrace overlook Hoxton track and Hoxton field. Since the Student Center’s opening, the space has been brimming with life. Students have been using the space to gather with friends for a burger or milkshake, study, watch football, shoot pool, and more.
“In the Student Center’s opening weekend, it was evident that the new space will help students build even stronger relationships and bonds with their classmates,” said Director of Activities and Summer Programs Katie Ryan Kantz, whose office is located in the building.
Stewart Gym — a gift from Mrs. George W. Peterkin (Marion), wife of the Bishop of West Virginia, who attended Episcopal from 1856 to 1858, and two of her sisters — has served many purposes over the years. The building, named in honor of their uncle, Daniel Stewart, and their father, John Stewart, has been home to basketball, wrestling, fencing and boxing, the art department, temporary dormitory housing, and community meeting. While Stewart Gym has played many different roles on campus, it has always been a space dedicated to fostering community and Episcopal students’ well-being.
Stewart Gym became Episcopal’s official student center in 2012, and in July 2014 the EHS Board of Trustees decided to expand the building’s offerings, all while preserving the historic character of the space. They selected Voith and Mactavish Architects to undertake the project, and fundraising efforts were spearheaded by a $3 million gift from Louis Bacon ’74.
Just over two years later, the new Student Center in Stewart Gym is already making its mark on student life. In addition to the everyday ways in which students are using the space, there have also already been many organized events in the building. Events have included a student chess tournament, a performance by teacher Lauren Echko’s acapella group, a dance with DJ, a holiday card-making activity, a ping pong tournament, and an evening “glow” yoga session.