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Under a brilliant blue sky on a perfect October day, Connecticut College officially opened its revitalized waterfront, with its sweeping views, increased access to the mighty Thames River, and new spaces and facilities for sailing, rowing, marine science and recreation.
Speaking to a large crowd at an Oct. 21 ribbon-cutting and dedication, President Katherine Bergeron said that Conn’s waterfront location—unique among NESCAC schools—now projects a sense of openness, invitation and possibility.
“Rivers always mark boundaries. They also defy them,” she told the more than 150 current and former trustees, alumni, faculty, staff, students, community members and local dignitaries gathered for the occasion. “What I love about this new project is how it reconnects the College to our history and our prehistory, to our neighbors, and quite dramatically to our Athletic Center and our main campus. In doing so it has made the river a destination, changing the orientation of the College landscape and making us experience Conn as a true waterfront campus, maybe for the first time.”
Made possible by leadership gifts from champion rower and Athletic Hall of Fame member Jessica Archibald ’95 and Emeritus Trustee Barbara Zaccheo Kohn ’72, the revitalized waterfront provides a first-rate athletic facility for the sailing and rowing programs, an outdoor classroom and living laboratory for marine science, environmental research and conservation, an expedition training area for Conn’s Outdoor Adventures program, and a vibrant recreational space for students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members. A goal of the College’s strategic plan, the Defy Boundaries campaign and the Action Plan for Competitive Success, the enhanced waterfront features new floating dock systems, facilities, and a new roadway with sidewalks and solar- and wind-powered lighting.
“Our waterfront is a tremendous asset, but we hadn’t been taking full advantage of it,” said Dean of the College Victor Arcelus. “This project has changed the relationship between the campus and the waterfront in a way that will benefit the entire community.
“There was a beautiful moment when I was at the Athletic Center and I could see the rowers and the sailors on the water, the track and field athletes throwing on the middle terrace, the runners running on the track, and the lacrosse players playing on the turf field—all at the same time. There was this great sense of energy and connection.”
The new waterfront provides a first-rate experience for student-athletes, especially those in the sailing and rowing programs that call the facility home. The Camels are the only NESCAC program with on-campus access to the water, and the new facility will aid in both hosting larger collegiate events and attracting potential recruits. “This project puts us at the front of the pack,” said head sailing coach Jeff Bresnahan. “We’ve always run great events here at Conn, but now we have the next piece—a great facility with 36 boats on the dock. This is one of the top facilities in the country.”
Conn’s prime location along the Thames River has long been a distinguishing feature of the 750-acre arboretum campus, and is even reflected in the motto that appears on the College’s seal: Tanquam lignum quod plantatum est secus decursus aquarum, a Latin phrase that translates to: “Like a tree planted by rivers of water (that bringeth forth its fruit in its season.)” But more than 100 years of tree growth, including numerous invasive species, had blocked vistas on the terraced property, and a multilane road had further reduced access.
When COVID-19 hit in 2020 and Conn transitioned to fully remote learning, the College’s grounds crew, who Bergeron called the “heroes in this story,” took on the considerable task of clearing the hillside to make the river visible again.
That work inspired Archibald’s gift, which supported the creation of Archibald Way, the new paved road featuring sidewalks and solar- and wind-powered lighting leading all the way down to the waterfront. Completion of the roadway then paved the way—literally—for a second leadership gift from Kohn, whose support made possible the redevelopment of an accessible multidimensional marine access point for the College, now called the Kohn Waterfront.
“I cannot express how grateful we are to you both for bringing this beautiful place to life,” Bergeron said to Archibald and Kohn during the ceremony.
Additional support for the project was provided by the McKinney family P’24, the Whittemore family P’23, Marian and Hans Baldauf P’24, Garrett and Sarah McAvoy P’25, Hélène and Matthew Lorentzen P’24, Erin F. Largay ’99 and the Hewson Family (Edward ’89, Lisa ’88, Heather ’84, Melissa ’86, Alexa ’21, Sarah ’63), as well as an anonymous donor.