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Cummings School to open campus center

by Mark Sullivan

For years veterinary students have found a great education amid the barns and fields of the Cummings School's rural campus. Now they'll also find a place to hang out, exercise, and grab a cup of coffee.

Groundbreaking is planned this summer on the Agnes Varis Campus Center, a project that will convert a historic but long unused former dormitory at the center of the Grafton campus into a public space dedicated to fostering community at the veterinary school.

Trustee and Overseer Agnes Varis, H03, whose previous generosity to the school is reflected in the Varis Lecture Hall and the Varis Cat Ward of the Foster Hospital for Small Animals, has made a $4 million naming gift toward the campus center.

Trustee and Overseer David McGrath, V86, and wife Donna, N85, benefactors previously of the McGrath Veterinary Teaching Laboratory, have committed $1.5 million toward the project. Leadership gifts also have been received from the Paul and Virginia Cabot Charitable Trust and Frank Gangi.

Construction is expected to be completed in 2007. The campus center will meet a long-felt need at the Cummings School. Over the past quarter-century the school has assembled all the clinical and academic teaching facilities a veterinary student requires. But apart from a small canteen, a suitable venue for interacting outside of class has been missing.

Enter the Agnes Varis Campus Center. The project will renovate a historic brick building that was built in the early 1900s as a nurses' dormitory at the old Grafton State Hospital, but has been unoccupied since well before Tufts acquired the grounds. Once restored, the handsome, centrally-located structure promises to be a signature building of the campus.

"The Cummings School community will be so positively affected by the enlarged dining facilities, new exercise room, and expanded office and gathering spaces to be available in the new Agnes Varis Campus Center," said Dean Deborah Kochevar. "We are grateful for the dedicated support of friends like Agnes Varis and David McGrath, whose generosity has made so many things possible on our campus."

The new campus center's floor plan includes space for a fitness room, cafeteria, bookstore, student lounges and faculty offices. The ground-level floor will include a 1,000-square-foot exercise room, while the first floor will have a cafeteria, with a terrace on the southeast end for outdoor dining. The second floor, devoted to student activity, will feature two 1,000-square-foot lounges for quiet study and social gatherings, plus space for student organizations and for a student-run bookstore. The third floor will provide offices for 13 faculty members.