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January 23, 2023

Roberts Wesleyan University Celebrates Grand Opening of the Golisano Community Engagement Center

The Golisano Community Engagement Center is now a reality at Roberts Wesleyan University. President Deana L. Porterfield was joined today by campus leaders, community partners and friends of the university to celebrate the grand opening of the new and highly anticipated $13.9 million Golisano Community Engagement Center that will serve as a hub for connection, community interaction and student life resources on campus. 

“Today is an exciting day and marks an important milestone moment in our community,” President Deana L. Porterfield said. “The Golisano Community Engagement Center has been greatly needed and anticipated for years, so to finally be opening the building for use by our students and community is a dream come true. I am so thankful for the generosity of Tom Golisano, our alumni, donors and friends, and so very grateful to God for this beautiful facility and the blessing it will be in the lives of our students, faculty, staff, and those we serve and partner with in the Greater Rochester community.” 

The modern 26,167-square-foot, two-story center reflects Roberts Wesleyan’s deeply rooted spiritual and community ties, serving as the first building on campus to provide centralized space for both students and the community to gather and interact. Upon entering through the Parris Family Welcome Center, which includes a visual timeline of the institution’s storied 157-year history, the first floor encompasses 3,000 square feet of event space available for campus functions and rental opportunities.

Among the first-floor amenities are inclusive areas for learning and recreational activity, including a gaming lounge and study spaces for students. Palmer’s Place, a grab-and-go-style café named after Dwight M. (Kip) and Amy Palmer, fifth-generation owners of Rochester-based Palmer Family of Companies, will also be located on the first floor among offices for Student Life and Spiritual Life, and the Rinker Conference Hall named in honor of the Marshall E. Rinker Sr. Foundation. 

The second floor houses the Offices for Career Development and International Engagement alongside a prayer chapel, commuter lounge, a forensic laboratory and the Clugston Innovation Conference Room that offers LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® Training and consultations facilitated by certified instructors. The second story will also function as a workplace for Roberts Wesleyan’s custom training and certificate programs offered through the Community Institutes. The Community Institutes provide community-focused educational solutions and resources to area businesses and organizations seeking real-world learning experiences, insight and transformational partnerships both locally and abroad. 

Highlighted among the building’s many unique structural and design features are art installations created by Roberts Wesleyan students in collaboration with local artist Shawn Dunwoody. The project was initiated during the fall 2022 semester to create eight student works of art in a variety of mediums that are now showcased around the building. The artwork, which includes an original piece titled “Upward: Tension, Balance, Belief,” designed by Dunwoody, reflects people, symbolism, connection and the spirit of lifting each other up. Roberts Wesleyan also worked with local artist Valerie O’Hara, a third-generation stained-glass artist and owner of Pike Stained Glass Studios, to commission a stained-glass window inspired by Jeremiah 17:7-8 (NIV) for the prayer chapel.

Roberts Wesleyan announced plans for the new state-of-the-art facility in August 2019, following a generous $7.5 million naming gift from community philanthropist and entrepreneur Tom Golisano. The gift is the single largest in Roberts Wesleyan’s 157-year history and all remaining capital to support the completion of the building was funded by major donors, partners and alumni through the university’s $15 million Connect the Community campaign. 

“My congratulations to Roberts Wesleyan University on the opening of this important new center,” Golisano said, in a statement to mark the occasion. “I’m proud to have been a part of this exciting endeavor. The new Golisano Community Engagement Center will bring together students and community. It will also give Roberts Wesleyan new opportunities to share its professional and educational expertise with the broader community and provide essential training and education to businesses, corporate and community partners, and students.”

The Golisano Community Engagement Center was a key component of the university’s seven-year strategic plan initiated in 2016. The plan focused on engaged campus culture, innovative growth and transformational partnerships. The building also symbolizes years of intentional growth and program development, and launches the beginning of the new Vision 2030 strategic plan, positioning Roberts Wesleyan as New York’s leading university for character education.

Building on the university’s 157-year history of “Education for Character,” Roberts Wesleyan University is committed to graduating students who are thoughtful, spiritually mature, service-oriented people who develop the character and competence to bridge societal tensions and respond to the profound issues of today. Customized educational pathways and career-enhancing practical experiences prepare students within a learning environment that is rooted in Christian faith to become courageous leaders for the flourishing of people and communities throughout the region, nation and world.

Roberts Wesleyan broke ground on the Golisano Community Engagement Center in May 2021 and selected SWBR and Home Leasing to lead the design, architecture and construction of the building. Richard Greer, director of facilities at Roberts Wesleyan, served as the project manager on behalf of the university.

For more information on the Golisano Community Engagement Center and Roberts Wesleyan University, please visit



Ribbon Cutters: Dave Beinetti (SWBR), Robert Duffy (Chamber of Commerce), Dr. Terry Taber (Board Chair), Emerson Fullwood (Board), Ryan Zegarelli (SWBR), Mike Zale (Ogden Town Supervisor), Adam Bello (Monroe Cty Exec), Dr. Deana Porterfield (President of Roberts Wesleyan University), Autumn Dillow (Student Body President at Roberts Wesleyan University), Richard Greer (Director of Facilities at Roberts Wesleyan University), Dr. Carrie Starr (Director of the Community Institutes at Roberts Wesleyan University), Mark Maddalina (SWBR), and Congressman Joe Morelle

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