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Opening of Student Life Center Inspires Excitement, Gratitude
The Olander family and school leaders prepare to cut the ribbon

Lead donors Michael and Candace Olander, at left, and their children Sasha ’25 and Shane ’22 prepare to cut the ceremonial ribbon with Head of School Doreen Kelly, Board Chair Amy Batten and A.E. Finley Foundation board representatives Vic Bell ’74 and Kevin Anderson ’82.

The Olander Center for Student Life at the A.E. Finley Activity Center officially opened to the Ravenscroft community on Wednesday, March 16, with school leadership, members of the project team, special guests, student leaders and the Class of 2022 in attendance.

Head of School Doreen Kelly led the ribbon-cutting ceremony to open the new space following an intensive, 18-month-long campus construction project. The partial renovation and expansion of the iconic A.E. Finley Activity Center has created a new, 33,000-square-foot facility with features including a light-filled dining hall for Middle and Upper School students, large- and small-group meeting areas, a wellness and meditation room, an expanded Alumni Hall of Fame suite and a revamped school store.

“Today is a celebration — a celebration for many reasons,” Kelly said in her remarks. “Our journey to reach this momentous milestone has been a long one, with years of dreaming, preparation, planning and, finally, construction.”

Kelly honored the vision of the Finley Center’s namesake, philanthropist and Ravenscroft board member A.E. Finley, and went on to thank the many members of our community whose foresight, determination and generosity have helped turn a long-held dream into reality.

“While we have always been a connected community, the past two years [of living with the pandemic] have given us each reason to think deeply about the importance of community. Our vision for the center for student life is that it becomes the heart of the Ravenscroft community — a place where our students, faculty and staff, parents and guardians, alumni and alumni families and any members of our community — can come together,” she said. “This vision would not even be possible without the philanthropic leadership of Mr. Finley, the A.E. Finley Foundation and [lead donors] Michael and Candace Olander.”

Students tour the center, enjoy the seating and  practice yoga poses

Clockwise from top: Ravens tour the dining hall, enjoy the flexible seating upstairs and practice yoga poses in the Norona Wellness Room.

Kelly also thanked Ravenscroft Director of Facilities Chris Farrow and members of the project team, which included design partners Little Diversified Architectural Consulting and general contractors Brassfield & Gorrie, as well as two former board members who were instrumental in establishing the vision for the project, Kevin Anderson ’82 and John Jenkins.

After the ceremonial ribbon-cutting, attendees were able to enter the building and enjoy what was, for many, their first forays into the new dining hall and Papou’s Kitchen, the Norona Wellness Room and Patio, the RavenZone school store and more. 

“Watching the excited faces of the students as they entered the center was a pleasure to see,” Michael Olander said. “And the center itself has exceeded our expectations and is truly a world-class facility which further supports the flourishing Ravenscroft community.”

Upper School Student Government president Delaney Washington ’22 said she was looking forward to enjoying everything the new facility has to offer. “I’m excited to use this space during study halls to get some work done, and as a student leader I’m looking forward to having meetings in here. The meeting space is so beautiful. I’m really grateful we have this new space on campus.”

Members of the senior class soon returned to the new dining hall for lunch with the Board of Trustees. As the day progressed, Middle School advisories and Upper School students with study halls came by to tour the building. Many commented on how the new space, with its thoughtful amenities and varied seating areas, will enhance their day-to-day experiences.

“I’m really excited to try the food here and get to sit with my friends, because we haven’t been able to do that [recently] because of COVID,” Yara Othman ’27 said during her tour. 

Views from around the opening of the Olander Center

Clockwise from top left: One of the branded graphics in the Olander Center; Middle School students socialize in the popular nooks; seniors eat lunch as Board Chair Amy Batten (at back, center) stops by.

“I like all of the seating. It looks very modern and cool,” Mahek Singh ’27 added. 

“There’s going to be a lot of student interaction between groups that normally wouldn’t spend that much time together,” Bennett Gillespie ’23 said. “It’s a chance to meet new people.”

All students in the Upper School and Middle School followed on Thursday, March 17, with the first full lunch in the new dining hall. 

“It’s kind of like how it is at a college,” Ava Martin ’25 said as she ate lunch with her friends. “I love how the food service area is bigger and gives you more options.”

“I really liked the pasta bar, how you could put your own sauce on it,” Lauren Hayes ’23 added.

Throughout the day, students continued to use the building during study halls, taking advantage of both the enclosed meeting rooms and the open seating areas throughout the second floor. An Upper School Mandarin class practiced tai chi in the Norona Wellness Room. Coaching staff, teachers and administrators worked and collaborated. As the school day came to a close, excited families from all three divisions browsed the new merchandise in the RavenZone. 

Families are invited to tour the Olander Center and learn more about next year’s all-inclusive meal plan on Wednesday, March 30, 6-8 p.m. Please register now via Veracross and join us for the event.

Want to know more? Watch the livestream of the ribbon-cutting ceremony (starting at the 6:05 mark) and view our photo album on Flickr. Retrace the progress of the construction project on our dedicated project page, and enjoy stories about the center from Ravenscroft Magazine.

Art display, student tours and students lounging outside

Clockwise from top left: Student artwork displayed in a hallway; Middle School teacher Melissa Spainhour shows her advisory group around the second floor; students enjoy the outside seating options.