It was a late Christmas present for the Carlisle community, but it was a welcome one.
We’re talking about the announcement by Penn State that it has $50 million committed to the renovation of Dickinson School of Law’s Trickett Hall.
Originally, Penn State had planned to construct a new building from the ground up and completely remove Trickett from the landscape. This was in keeping with the university’s pledge to treat Carlisle equally with the planned second campus for the law school at University Park, which is supposed to break ground sometime in a few weeks.
But many local residents were aghast at the notion, especially after seeing the unofficial drawings of a proposed new building that were posted inside Trickett Hall. People who live in the adjacent residential area especially were concerned that a modern building would be an eyesore compared to the old-fashioned stone-faced visage of Trickett they were used to, and a petition drive against the modern building was started.
Those complaints were heard, and Penn State committed to a partial preservation of Trickett. But that decision came with its own problems, specifically negative feedback from donors who had conditioned their gifts on the construction of a new building. In May it was announced that only $30 million would be available for the new law school campus — a possible threat to the notion that both law school campuses would be equal.
But last week, Philip McConnaughay, dean of the law school, announced that donors had risen to the challenge and brought the Carlisle campus’ pool of money back up to $50 million. That number includes the $25 million pledged at the outset by Gov. Ed Rendell, $10 million of Penn State’s own money and $15 million in alumni gifts.
Work will now resume on the design of a building that will incorporate Trickett Hall’s appearance while offering expanded and modernized space for the entire law school. Because of the controversy, the twin campuses in Carlisle and University Park will open several months apart, not simultaneously as originally planned.
Nevertheless, the larger commitment of funding and the restarting of the design process will help Carlisle maintain its historic claim as the home of Dickinson School of Law. We had the hunch when Penn State first took over Dickinson Law back in the 1990s that the university might not be satisfied with having such a prestigious institution operate so far from its seat of power in Centre County, and subsequent events proved us right.
Those battles are behind us now, and the future looks bright for the Carlisle campus of Dickinson Law. We anxiously await the unveiling of the design for the new campus.