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Above: The Ruane Center for the Humanities is
home to the Development of Western Civilization
Program, in which all freshmen and sophomores
study; the Liberal Arts Honors Program; and the
English and history departments.
As alumni, Gerald J. Sullivan '86, a
principal in Sullivan Buckingham Architects, and
Daniel S. Kantor '92, principal and chief financial
officer of S/L/A/M Collaborative, both understood
the importance of the DWC program at PC.

Ruane Center wins national award for architectural design

The Ruane Center for the Humanities, which quickly became a favorite of Providence College students, faculty, and staff when it opened in September, has been honored with a national architectural award.

The center was selected for inclusion in the Annual Architecture Portfolio — published in American School & University magazine and online at — for outstanding design in the post-secondary school category. The annual competition spotlights projects that represent the most effective learning environments today.

The Ruane Center, which is featured across three pages of the magazine, was designed by the S/L/A/M Collaborative of Glastonbury, Conn., and Sullivan Buckingham Architects LLC of Boston. Both firms have alumni connections: Daniel S. Kantor ’92 is a principal and the chief financial officer of S/L/A/M, and Gerald J. Sullivan ’86 is a principal of Sullivan Buckingham.  

The center, named in recognition of a leadership gift from Michael A. Ruane ’71 & ’13Hon. and his wife Elizabeth, was designed to reflect the College’s commitment to the humanities. It is home to the Development of Western Civilization Program, in which all freshmen and sophomores study; the Liberal Arts Honors Program; and the English and history departments. 

“My greatest joy is that we have designed and built an award-winning building which will be used by half of our student population every day and reflects the quality of our faculty and our programs,” said John M. Sweeney, PC’s senior vice president for finance and business and chief financial officer. “The fact that it carries the name of Mike and Elizabeth Ruane and recognizes their valuable commitment to Providence College makes it even more meaningful.”

Space for collaboration, with “school identity”

For the portfolio, architectural firms, schools, and universities across the country submitted projects for evaluation by a jury consisting of education administrators and members of the American Institute of Architects Committee on Architecture for Education. The 145 that were selected met the following criteria: 

• Spaces should be designed for collaboration.

• Facilities should be flexible and adaptable and should change with the times.

• Spaces should not have fixed labels, but should be designed for multiple uses and with movable walls. They should be open and welcoming, but designed with safety and security in mind.

• Technology should facilitate learning and respond to the changing landscape.

• There should be school identity. Students and the community should relate to the space and draw a connection, be proud of the space, and have an investment in it.

• Indoor-outdoor connections are important. Students and staff should have the ability to see outside, form connections and relationships, and the technology should be accessible and seamless.

A “beacon” for the campus community

The 63,000-square-foot, three-story Ruane Center, which was designed and built in 18 months at a cost of $21.3 million, has three distinct areas, as described in the portfolio: a Great Room that serves as a student lounge and study space; faculty offices; and a centrally situated teaching area with two large halls for lectures and presentations, two medium-sized classrooms, and 12 smaller seminar rooms.

Its style is Collegiate Gothic to complement Harkins Hall, PC’s first building. 

“A distinctive illuminated tower entrance is a ‘beacon’ for the campus community,” the portfolio says. “The tower enters into a dramatic double-height ‘Great Room’ with a 180-degree view of the campus, a working fireplace, and an outdoor terrace. The Great Room is furnished comfortably for conversation, informal study, and other college functions.”

“Because Gothic architecture is as much about light as space, natural light floods into every office and classroom … The intricate masonry detailing reflects strong Dominican traditions.”

Two pages of photographs include this quote from College President Rev. Brian J. Shanley, O.P. ’80: “This will be our signature building for the next 100 years. I couldn’t be any more excited about a new academic facility than I am for this building. It will symbolize the college’s commitment to the liberal arts, the humanities, and undergraduate education — including the revitalized core curriculum and the Development of Western Civilization Program, which remains the cornerstone of the Providence College academic experience.”

— Vicki-Ann Downing


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