Landmark College rings in 30th year with new STEM building

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PUTNEY — Landmark College ushered in its 30th year with a new building and a visit from the governor on Saturday.

Putney native Gov. Peter Shumlin spoke at a grand reception under a tent on the college's quad after the grand opening and ribbon-cutting of the institution's new Nicole Goodner MacFarlane Science Technology & Innovation Center. Shumlin, also a founding trustee of Landmark College and a former Putney Selectboard member, explained the school's history and how the land nearly became a federal prison.

The governor said Windham College went defunct and the campus was abandoned for 10 years. Eventually, the Federal Bureau of Prisons expressed interest in developing a facility on the site and Shumlin won a seat on the town's Selectboard in an effort to thwart the effort. The plan was later struck down by voters at a Town Meeting and Shumlin became instrumental in the development of Landmark. The college is reserved for students with learning disabilities and difficulties. Shumlin, who detailed his personal struggle with dyslexia, explained how the school can change lives for people who learn differently.

The governor's address followed the ribbon-cutting of the new building dedicated to science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Nicole Goodner MacFarlane, who graduated from Landmark in 1998, facilitated the $2 million matching pledge by the Tambour Foundation that helped make the facility a reality and spoke at the grand opening. According to Landmark, trustees of the MacFarlane family's foundation approached the Tambour Foundation — a small, private charitable foundation that focuses on educational and other advancement opportunities around the world — to make the gift based on Nicole's enthusiastic advocacy. An additional $7.3 million was raised through philanthropic efforts, according to Ellen Smith, Landmark's vice president for institutional advancement.

MacFarlane, a wife and a mother of two, said memories of her time at Landmark came flooding back one day as she looked at her daughter.

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"Because my children are so young, I don't know what their learning style will be or whether or not they will struggle academically. It was in that early morning moment as a new mother that I wondered if (my daughter) would struggle in school the way that I did. Then, I was comforted by the thought of Landmark College," she told the crowd of dozens outside the new building. "When I attended Landmark almost 20 years ago, I was surrounded by educators and my ever-present academic advisor, Geoff Burgess. For the first time in my academic journey, I felt that I was right where I was supposed to be, having teachers who championed for me, who encouraged me, who were tough but very fair and who saw the potential I had that no other teacher seemingly saw in me."

Groundbreaking of the project began on Aug. 30, 2014, and it took a year to complete.

Professor Abigail Littlefield, chairwoman of Landmark College's natural science department, said the faculty could not be more thrilled with the new facility.

"The lab spaces were designed by us from the ground up. We did so with both our student population and our teaching practices in mind. Thus the labs are really the ideal environment for teaching and learning science for students who learn differently," she told the Reformer in a statement during a tour of the building on Sept. 23. "Everything from the color scheme, to the cutting edge technology, to the layout of the lab benches, was designed for how we teach science at Landmark College.

"We moved in four weeks ago and the excitement is still quite palpable in classes and while walking the halls of the building," she added.

Contact Domenic Poli at 802-254-2311, ext. 277.


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