Athey Center Opens
Conn officially opened the new Athey Center for Performance and Research at Palmer Auditorium on April 29, 2022C
onn officially opened the new Athey Center for Performance and Research at Palmer Auditorium on April 29, 2022, in front of a large crowd of current and former trustees, alumni, faculty, staff and students.
President Katherine Bergeron told the audience she was thrilled to mark a major milestone for the arts at Connecticut College with the public rededication of Palmer Auditorium as the Nancy Athey ’72 and Preston Athey Center for Performance and Research.
“Our most heartfelt thanks has to go to the visionary leaders who realized what a renovation of this space could mean for Connecticut College and then stepped forward to answer the call. The first is The Sherman Fairchild Foundation and its director, Bonnie Himmelman from the Class of 1966, who made the initial gift of $10 million almost as a kind of challenge grant. And then the second, the amazing couple who answered that challenge with a matching gift of $10 million. I’m talking about Nancy Athey, from the Class of 1972, and her husband Preston Athey, whose names are now memorialized alongside Mr. Palmer’s on the walls of this building,” Bergeron said.
“Nancy and Preston, I cannot express how deeply grateful I am for your leadership and vision in making those connections possible.”
The revitalized Athey Center will serve as a hub of innovation, encouraging performance and dialogue on the critical issues of our time. It will also promote pioneering artistic production and research, attract world-renowned artists-in-residence, foster cross-disciplinary teaching and scholarship and help to advance the work of Connections. Additional support for the $23 million project was made possible by the generosity of the William Randolph Hearst Foundation, the Frank Loomis Palmer Fund, the George I. Alden Trust, T. Wilson Eglin, Jr. ’86, and the Family of Ruth Stupell Weinflash.
The historically informed renovation preserves and improves upon the building’s stunning art deco design, and features better egress and sightlines, more comfortable seating, enhanced flooring, state-of-the art acoustic technology, more natural light, a more open and welcoming entrance, and mechanical systems for lighting, heating and cooling that reflect the highest standards of energy efficiency.
The renovation was led by Ennead Architects, a New York City-based architectural firm that specializes in performance spaces. Brian Masuda, associate principal at Ennead, said the company’s project team respected the wishes of Virginia Palmer and the rest of the Palmer Family, the original benefactors of the auditorium, to ensure the building “be a continuing benefit alike to the College and community.”