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The Wishcamper Center: Transformative Symbol

 

      You can't miss it. As you pass the University of Southern Maine campus in Portland, on either the city street or the high-speed interstate, you're going to notice the striking new Wishcamper Center. And that, to Joe Wishcamper, is the point.

“The university deserves to have a prominent place in our community, because of its importance educationally, economically and culturally,” says the philanthropist and business/community leader. “This building gives it that prominence. It is beautiful and visually prominent.”

He also notes the functional contribution made by the new building: “Physically, it gives a home to two divisions of the university that are very important . . . but were distributed almost randomly. The center gave them a place to consolidate.”

In returning to the larger implications of the new building, Wishcamper added: “If you remember the buildings that were replaced by the Wishcamper Center and the expansion of the Osher Map Library onto the Glickman Family Library – they were not compatible as the front door to the university. They were industrial uses, not compatible from an urban landscape standpoint and from a safety standpoint.”

 

LEED ‘So Appropriate'

 

To the occupants of the center, there are additional elements of symbolism.

William H. Foster, dean of the Muskie School of Public Service, sees the LEED-Certified building as a physical expression of the iconic leadership of the late Senator Edmund S. Muskie

in public health, economic development and quality of life.

“Ed Muskie without question was the father of the modern environmental movement,” Foster said in a recent interview, pointing to Muskie's leadership in enactment of the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act. “But he was not a tree-hugger. He did it for economic reasons.

“He was a kid in Rumford, and the Androscoggin was a mess then. He felt that water is a fundamental commodity, and the water that enters Rumford needs to leave Rumford in the same condition. Conservation and economic values went together. For the Muskie School to be in a LEED-Certified building is so appropriate.”

LEED – Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design – is certified when the construction materials and continuing operation of the building are specifically designed to save energy and have the least possible effect on the environment. The Wishcamper Center 's Gold Certification is the second-highest possible.

Carol Potter, a building construction engineer for USM who has LEED credentials, was the Wishcamper project manager. She notes that some LEED elements are easily seen. For example, the north walls are all insulated glass, to maximize natural light inside, while the south side is largely solid wall, to take the heat load of the sun and reduce its interior effect.

 

Fulfilling Muskie's Mandate

 

The Muskie School , which occupies three-quarters of the center, previously had components in six different facilities. Now its faculty, research and services professionals – anywhere from 230 to 300 at any given time – are mostly concentrated in the Bedford Street building.

While the new co-location has had a significant impact on collaboration at that level, Foster emphasizes its effect on another major part of the school's mission, as it was seen by Senator Muskie: Value to students. “This building provides a venue for our students that brings them together in ways never before possible.”

The lab, lounges, facilities and space have enhanced student relationships and experiences so they much more effectively support preparation for their careers. “Ed's charge was: This is about preparing the leaders for public service,” Foster said.

The Muskie School “functions under a mandate expressed when Ed Muskie gave his name to the school. The use of his name was a bit conditional: He wanted public service, not public policy. The intent was a graduate school with an applied research/service component. It was designed to train leaders in public service – people who do public service. He was quite demanding about that. And now we have people in service all over the country.”

 

‘Fundamental' for OLLI

Kali Lightfoot, executive director of the National Resource Center of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, is overseeing a rapidly expanding senior citizen education program for which this new space “has made a fundamental difference.”

Previously, OLLI used portions of Payson Smith and Luther Bonney facilities on Fridays to run 65 classes in its no-tests/no-credits/no-grades curriculum. Now, Lightfoot said the leadership is exploring the possibilities for expansion to six days a week in its own classrooms in the Wishcamper Center .

The building itself means much more: The USM operations include the OLLI national resource center, and “this is the first time USM is in a leadership position, in a league where we haven't played.” Brandeis, Duke and other top universities are among the institutions served by the resource center. “This building

kind of frames that status,” the executive director concludes.

Maine 's Senior College was started by Rabbi Harry Sky and USM's Terry Foster in 1996, joining a movement for senior-citizen education that had begun in 1962 in New York . In 1999, with the support of Gov. Angus King, it expanded into university facilities around the state.

Bernard Osher joined in with a $2 million donation in 2000, as part of a nationwide effort on his part. The National Resource Center was created at USM in 2004 with Lightfoot as executive director. There are now 122 OLLI organizations around the country, serving 80,000 people. The Maine program, including

theater, chorus and art, serves 1,200 people.

 

Linkage Key to Wishcamper

 

The University Commons concept is important to Joe Wishcamper, especially how the center “exists in relationship with the Osher Map Library and the new extension. They are to be seen together.”

The Commons also includes the expanded Osher Map Library at Bedford Street and Forest Avenue , a new entrance to the Glickman Family Library, and a 30-foot-wide promenade along Bedford Street . Carol Potter, the project manager, explains that the promenade is basic to the design, integrating the other parts both aesthetically and physically.

The center is named for Joe and Carol Wishcamper, both business and community leaders who have long supported USM. Carol Wishcamper and Richard McGoldrick were co-chairs of the capital campaign that, together with a higher-education bond and special state appropriations, financed the $32.2 million project.

The overall setting includes, to the west along Bedford Street, the Abromson Community Education Center with its attached parking garage and the Alumni Skywalk across Bedford Street . The Abromson Center , also LEED certified, opened in 2005.

Within the past decade, the series of projects has transformed what formerly was a collection of industrial and commercial buildings, surface parking lots and some former residences.

In Joe Wishcamper's words, the result is indeed “beautiful and visually prominent . . . compatible as the front door to the university.”                                                                                                                                                                                -- Jim Milliken

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To Joe Wishcamper: A worthy front door to USM

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To Joe Wishcamper: A worthy front door to USM

   

 

 
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