College Acquires Pair of Downtown Properties, Continues Development of Downtown Campus
The spring semester at Wyoming Catholic College began last week, filling the College’s hallways with the sounds of eager activity once more. Returning to Lander after a lengthy Winter Break, students have embraced the rhythms of academic life with their usual enthusiasm. Senior Orations Week is in full swing, with each senior delivering a thirty-minute presentation on a carefully-researched topic often speaking from memory, though a few notes are permitted.
This week boasts another reason for excitement, however, as the College’s Administration announced the acquisition of a pair of historic buildings at the intersection of Lander’s Main and 3rd Streets—the Baldwin Building on the Northwest corner of the intersection (purchased from the College’s current landlords, Paul and Carrie Guschewsky), and the Orchard Building on the Southwest corner (purchased from Jim and Betty Sorensen, long-time Lander residents).
“In the College’s early days,” says President Glenn Arbery, “our long-term vision centered on dreams of a large (and expensive) campus on donated land some miles outside of town. But over the years,” he continues “the interplay we’ve experienced between our academic rhythms and the life of the town has become a defining characteristic for many of our students and professors. It’s difficult for us to imagine pulling the College away from the community of Lander. Our ability to partner with the town and its citizens in these shared spaces is one of the College’s greatest assets. The wonderful generosity of Paul and Carrie and Jim and Betty through the years and their openness to the College’s interest in purchasing these buildings as pillars of its future campus are examples of why we are proud and fortunate to call Lander home.”
One of these purchases—the historic Baldwin Building—is noteworthy more for the permanence it signals than for the additional space it provides. “We’ve been using this building for over a dozen years now,” says Jon Tonkowich, the College’s Executive Vice President, who notes that Baldwin currently serves as the College’s chief administrative and classroom building and provides the retail space occupied by Crux Coffee. “The impact this acquisition has on our available square footage is not major,” says Tonkowich, “but as any business owner can tell you, the shift from leasing to owning is dramatic. For the past few years, our Administration has been focused on the long-term financial stability of the College, and ownership of this building goes a long way towards ensuring it.”
The Orchard Building, including the space that houses the Bank of the West, “definitely provides some growth opportunities,” according to EVP Tonkowich. “The basement under the Bank of the West wasn’t being used, so we’ve converted it into much-needed library and quiet study space,” he says. “And the empty room above the Bank, known to many Lander residents as ‘the old Book Nook,’ has been converted to a temporary chapel. Both are close to our classrooms in the Augur Building (in the 400 Block of Main Street) and our cafeteria in Frassati Hall (on North 3rd), so having them has already significantly reduced the amount of back-and-forth travel our students undertake over the course of a day. This has brought a palpable stability and coherence to their day-to-day lives, and a number of our returning students have already remarked on that fact to me. I think it’s starting to feel more and more like a campus to them. At the same time, acquiring these two buildings highlights the College’s commitment to providing a vibrant downtown presence in and around the 300 Block of Lander’s Main Street. We know that our students bring a warmth and vitality to the town that is beneficial to businesses and townsfolk alike, and we very much intend to preserve and foster that relationship going forward.”
“The acquisition of these two spaces,” concludes President Arbery, “makes it increasingly possible for us to imagine what a coherent, complete downtown campus for Wyoming Catholic College will look like. Today, thanks to Carrie and Paul and Betty and Jim, we are well along the way to turning those dreams into a reality. We know there is still a lot of work and planning to be done to reach that goal, so stay tuned.”