A Grand Opening for the University Center

Sarah Jessica Parker with President Van Zandt and Board of Trustees Chair Joseph R. Gromek at the opening of the University Center. Photo by Michael DeVito.

Sarah Jessica Parker with President Van Zandt and Board of Trustees Chair Joseph R. Gromek at the opening of the University Center. Photo by Michael DeVito.

For the first time in almost 80 years, The New School once again has a central hub to house all its students—whether they study anthropology or fashion, dramatic arts or community development. The university unveiled its #NewUniversityCenter last week amid fanfare including inspiring student performances, reminiscing alumni, and an open house welcoming the entire community.  Here’s a quick rundown of the highlights.

There were celebrities and designers. Sarah Jessica Parker kicked off the opening events Thursday morning, enthusiastically declaring, “The University Center is a gift to the Village.” Parker—whose name is synonymous with New York City—wore an A-line black dress designed by Tracy Reese, an alumna of Parsons The New School for Design. Reese herself spoke later that day, remarking on the building’s potential for fostering greater community than ever before.

There was a birthday. Standing next to President David E. Van Zandt, John L. Tishman (a lifelong New School advocate and philanthropist whose company led the construction of the University Center) blew out candles on the eve of his 88th birthday at a celebratory lunch in the building.

There were politicians. Longtime New York Senator Charles Schumer fondly remembered past public programs offered at the university and noted its integral role in shaping Greenwich Village. Newly elected Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer gave an impassioned speech on the social awareness and innovative spirit of New School students.

There were artists and musicians. In the John L. Tishman Auditorium, the conceptual artist Glenn Ligon spoke about the importance of art in education. Ligon reflected on Walt Whitman’s provocative words in Leaves of Grass and on The New School’s mission of challenging conventional ideas. Phrases from Whitman’s poems will soon feature prominently in the University Center; Ligon was commissioned to create a site-specific piece and chose to incorporate the words into a bright pink installation in the Event Café. New School Jazz alumnus and saxophonist Marcus Strickland entertained the audience with a performance of “My Favorite Things.”

There were friends and neighbors. People mingled and explored the first seven floors of the University Center on Saturday, when the building formally opened to the public. Jazz students and performers played throughout the building as students led tours and visitors admired the modern design.

But perhaps best of all, there was the collective feeling of accomplishment with the culmination of nine years of work. Welcome to the University Center.

Click through the slideshow below for a glimpse of last week’s opening events.

Sarah Jessica Parker stops before cameras during a press event at the University Center on Thursday, January 23, 2014. New School president David Van Zandt and chair of the Board of Trustees Joseph Gromek follow. Photo by Michael DeVito

(L-R) City Council Member Corey Johnson, Sarah Jessica Parker, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, New School President David Van Zandt, Chair of Board of Governors Joseph Gromek, and University Center lead architect Roger Duffy at a press event celebrating the opening of the new student center. Photo by Michael DeVito

Sarah Jessica Parker, School of Drama Director Pippin Parker, and New School trustee Timothy L. Porter at the opening event of the University Center. Photo by Michael DeVito

Guests check in for the grand opening of the University Center on Thursday, January 23, 2014. Photo by Kasia Broussalian

People mingle in the lobby of the University Center prior to the opening festivities. Photo by Kasia Broussalian

Sara Caswell, a violinist with The Big Picture (the ensemble of Mannes School of Music's David Krakauer) performs a mic check prior to the opening festivities at the University Center. Photo by Kasia Broussalian

UC Grand Opening at The New School

UC Grand Opening at The New School

New York Senator Charles Schumer greets members of the audience prior to speaking during the University Center opening event on Thursday, January 23, 2014. Photo by Kasia Broussalian

Slam poet Shanelle Gabriel, of Slam 103 prepares to perform at the opening event of the University Center last Thursday. Photo by Kasia Broussalian

Students from Mannes School of Music warm up inside the green room at the University Center. Photo by Kasia Broussalian

School of Jazz student and bassist Alex Claffy, (left) of Marcus Strickland's (BFA Jazz '01) band waits to perform at the University Center opening. Photo by Kasia Broussalian

(R-L) Conceptual artist Glenn Ligon, Vera List Professor of Philosophy Richard Bernstein, and saxophonist and School of Jazz alumnus Marcus Strickland wait in the greenroom to perform and speak during the University Center opening event. Photo by Kasia Broussalian

Milano dean Michelle DePass (left), and former Parsons student Tracy Reese wait in the green room for their turn to speak at the opening event for the University Center. Photo by Kasia Broussalian

Ana Oliveria (MA Anthropology '84) listens to the speaker onstage as she prepares to speak at the University Center opening event. Photo by Kasia Broussalian

Ana Oliveria (MA Anthropology '84) (right) prepares to speak at the University Center opening event on Thursday, January 23, 2014. Photo by Kasia Broussalian

Ana Oliveria (MA Anthropology '84) (right) prepares to speak at the University Center opening event as Milano dean Michelle DePass steps off stage. Photo by Kasia Broussalian

New York Senator Charles Schumer speaks at the evening event on the opening of the University Center last Thursday. Photo by Michael DeVito

The New School's Joseph Urban Professor of Design and architecture critic Paul Goldberger speaks during the opening event of the University Center. Photo by Michael DeVito

School of Jazz students perform before a Parson's light display during the opening event for the University Center. Photo by Kasia Broussalian

A temporary installation on the second floor of the new University Center. Photo by Kasia Broussalian