ASU celebrates grand opening of new Barrett campus


October 15, 2009

The strongest testimony for the quality of Barrett, the Honors College, came from a student at the Oct. 15 grand opening of the new Barrett campus at Arizona State University.

Joe Canarie, now an ASU junior, said he had been accepted at Johns Hopkins and the University of Chicago, but changed his mind when he visited Barrett as a high school student from South Portland, Maine. Download Full Image

“I was very skeptical, coming from a high school where private college was the only option,” said Canarie, who is a biological sciences and global health major. “What I found was a group of students just as passionate and intelligent and engaged as any I had encountered elsewhere.

“They stayed up all night having philosophical conversations, they double majored in theater and neuroscience, they spent time tutoring local elementary school kids. Yet I found ASU was different, because the faculty and staff take students’ ideas so seriously.

“I felt I’d be valued here, and this is what makes Barrett unique. I discovered that getting a high-quality education doesn’t require wrapping yourself in ivy and mortgaging the house.”

Canarie said the idea for the Sustainability House at Barrett came from students, who approached deans with their desire to design a community where they could practice the values of sustainable living in their everyday lives. Today Canarie lives in SHAB with 200 other students, with low-consumption plumbing fixtures, enhanced energy monitoring, recycled gray water, a green roof and an organic garden.

Several hundred people came to celebrate the opening of the new $130 million seven-building campus that features housing, classrooms, faculty offices, a fitness center, computer lounge and dining hall with covered terrace and garden. They took tours and enjoyed the beauty of the spacious Grand Court, a central courtyard with performance spaces and an outdoor fireplace.

About 1,700 students moved into the new nine-acre complex before school started Aug. 25. It is the nation’s first comprehensive four-year residential honors college at a public university.

Craig and Barbara Barrett, who endowed the honors college with a $10 million gift in 2000, were thrilled by their tour of the new campus and impressed by the students they met. In a conversation after the ceremony, they related how the gift came about.

Both of the Barretts had been strong supporters of ASU, serving on numerous committees, she as an alumna. They were washing dishes after dinner at the home of their friends Elva and Lattie Coor, who was then the ASU president. They casually mentioned they’d decided to make a gift to the university, and when they mentioned the amount, the Coors had to sit down. Soon all four were in tears.

“The honors college at that time was young, and it was short on resources, with not much of a donor base,” said Craig. “We felt it needed additional financial support. Seeing what has grown from that initial seed is magnificent. The new campus is a phenomenal environment for learning.

“Barbara and I both went to school on scholarship, and have had the advantage of a good education. We recognize a good education is the key to a lifetime. To be able to give something back is absolutely necessary and appropriate. It’s the most important thing our generation can give to the following generation, the opportunity for a quality education.”

The new campus was funded by American Campus Communities, one of the largest owners, managers and developers of high quality student housing properties in the United States. Bill Bayless, American Campus CEO, said he had never seen a campus take shape so quickly, and in the midst of a recession.

“The ability of ASU to provide a living learning environment of this caliber to its students is a testament to the vision and resourcefulness of ASU President Michael Crow, and we are honored to support his mission,” he said. “We do business in more than 40 states, and nowhere have we seen an institution that can turn vision into action into reality as we have seen here at ASU.”