In Brief

Sugaring Time Again; Former President Writes Autobiography; Alum Signs with Baseball Team; News from the Nursing and Business Administration Departments and more.

Making Their Mark

Learn about how our community members engage in writing, presentations and exhibitions.

Past as Prologue

Explore Haystack, a portal to the history of Colby-Sawyer College.

Colby-Sawyer Courier

Keep up with campus news from students' perspectives through the Colby-Sawyer Courier.


This new literary magazine features creative writing in many genres by current students and alumni, faculty and staff, and a few friends and partners.


Find out what Colby-Sawyer alumni have been up to since graduation.

Currents: past as prologue

Birth of the Sawyer Arts Center, 1956-1960

Today, as Colby-Sawyer College considers ways to revitalize the Sawyer Fine and Performing Arts Center, Currents takes a look at the origins of this "American Modernist" addition to campus in the late 1950s.

Mugar Gallery, ca. 1960 Mugar Gallery, ca. 1960. The original features included moveable wall panels and lighting bars, north light, and a skilit sculpture court on the lower level.

Walter F. Bogner, F.A.I.A., [architectural consultant and professor, Graduate School of Design, Harvard University], ca. 1956

Dear Dr. Austin:

The student study for the design of the Art Center was launched today. The group is enthusiastic, and you may see some of them walking on your campus during the coming weekend. I am enclosing the program for their study which was discussed with them at great length with considerable emphasis on the stylistic issue and the site problem. (Dartmouth's proposed Art Center- with similar problems-- need[s] watching.)

Walter F. Bogner, “Class Assignment: A College Auditorium Problem I,” 1956

The auditorium is not to be thought of [as] a mere place of assemble; but rather as an alive center of the Arts on the campus...

The college is located in a charming New England rural community, and the present buildings are colonial in character. They were erected since the first world war in what was considered to be the suitable architecture style of the time.

The college desires a harmonious campus and in the design of the new building, the general character of the existing campus must be recognized. The features that give the campus its quality- namely the orderly outdoor spaces and the scale and color of the existing buildings- must be incorporated in the auditorium building, though it would not be assumed that colonial facades would be used to express present-day building functions and methods of construction.

Sawyer Center Groundbreaking President Emeritus H. Leslie Sawyer breaks ground for the new arts center named for him.

“Information on E. H. and M.E. Hunter,” firm profile, late 1950s

E.H. Hunter ("Theodore")

Attended Hanover High School, Deerfield Acdemy, Dartmouth College, and Thayer School of Engineering, graduating in 1938.

Awarded fellowship by the Institute of International Education for a year's study in architecture in Switzerland.

Graduated Harvard School of Design with Bachelor of Architecture--- 1941

Instructor, Dartmouth College-1946; full professor, part time-- 1955.

Sawyer Center Lobby A corner of the Sawyer Center lobby with now-classic "Diamond Chairs" designed by the great 20th-century sculptor and designer Harry Bertoia.
M.K. Hunter (Margaret K.)

Education: College High School, Montclair, N.J., Wheaton College, Norton, Mass.--- B.A. Harvard Graduate School of Design.

Worked for Antonin Raymond, Architect, New York; for Raymond Loewy, New York; and for Jackson and Moreland, Engineers, Boston, Mass.

The Firm

Established October 1945, Hanover, New Hampshire.

Won Progressive Architecture Magazine national competition for best building of the year, in the non-residential classification-- 1946 June, Dewey Showroom for "Best example of sound design progress during the year."

Took award Progressive Architecture Magazine national competition for best building of the year, residential classification 1947.

Eugene M. Austin [President, Colby Junior College], Report to Special Committee and Other Members of the Board of Trustees, February 16, 1957

The Hunters spent a day with us on the Colby campus, and we visited their office in Hanover later. They are a husband-and-wife team, in their early '40s, and are alert, modest, very eager to make their mark, functional in their approach to architecture but sensitive and sympathetic to tradition. Mrs. Hunter's "Housewife's house" was featured in LIFE magazine's "The American Woman" issue last December. Mr. Hunter was born in Hanover, educated at Deerfield and Dartmouth, and teaches a senior course in architecture at Dartmouth. Mrs. Hunter is a minister's daughter from New Jersey and a graduate of Wheaton College, where she first became interested in architecture as a career in observing the planning of the art center there...

The Hunters are eager to have the assignment and recognize in it a chance to make their reputation in the college field. After our two conferences they wrote...

"We would design a building in sympathy with the traditions and spirit of Colby Junior College, representing the Colby girl of today, her traditions and her future. This auditorium and campus center should endure... should be a proud demonstration of CJC's past growth and future aspirations... It will not look like any other building we have designed."

To: Faculty
From: E.M. Austin
February 19, 1957

Members of the faculty will be interested to know that the Trustees have engaged the architectural firm of E.H. & M.K. Hunter of Hanover, to proceed with preliminary studies and plans for Sawyer Hall. In mid-summer, when their plans have reached presentation stage, they will be reviewed and further commitments considered. This is a husband-and-wife team whose reputation has been growing nationally over recent years...

The firm was chosen from three firms recommended by Dr. Bogner of Harvard. The other two were Paul Rudolph, designer of the Arts Center at Wellesley, and Architects Collaborative (the so-called 'Gropius group') in Cambridge. The three firms seemed to possess equally competent and imaginative ability; and the Hunters were chosen for their proximity, their expressed feeling for New England tradition, and first-hand understanding of construction problems in our area.

They are anxious to meet you, to get your point of view directly; and I hope you will find them, as we did, delightful people with a real contribution to make in our future planning.

Sawyer Center Organ Sawyer Arts Center was designed as the home for the departments of Art, Speech, and Music. Among the musical instruments in the building was this two-manual Schlicker organ.

“Letters to the Editor,” Princeton Alumni Weekly, May 3, 1957

In an age when there is increased emphasis on Liberal Arts and its integration with the technical studies, I was therefore astonished to hear that the Department of Architecture is to sever its connections with the Department of Art and Archaeology by moving into solitary confinement opposite '79 Hall...

When Colby Junior College (about 500 girls) in New London, N.H., is farsighted enough to draw plans for a center housing their entire Arts program (including music), for about $800,000, I feel that Princeton, rather than erect an isolated monument to specialization, should concentrate on integration of the Arts, both audible and visual, both contemporary and historical.

W. Boulton Kelly Jr. '50, Cambridge, Mass.

Sawyer Center Hallway A corner of the original lobby showing the sweeping stairway leading to the lower level and auto entrance.

"Echo that Will Live" Argus Champion, Newport, NH, August 27, 1959

Among the pleasantest and certainly one of the most important events that has occurred in this area in a long time was the informal introduction of the Sawyer Fine Arts Center at Colby Junior College in New London last Friday.

The building is spacious, beautiful, colorful, functional, and the program which enabled the college's neighbors to see it was charming...

Most appealing, however, was the whirlpool of activity surrounding Dr. H. Leslie Sawyer, retired president of the college for whom the new art center is named. It was Dr. Sawyer's birthday and he was as happy as a small boy with a new electric train.

Prof. Eugene Youngken, “Introduction of President Austin at the Dedication of Mugar Art Building,” April 29, 1960

I have been able to watch the Mugar Art Building rise from my office window, and have been fascinated by the skills which go into such an operation. As a matter of fact, I was rather annoyed when the outer wall went up- and I couldn't see what was going on any longer. And I can well remember the first day that I visited Colby exactly a year ago when Dr. Austin took me out on a cement ledge which ended in space, and with his usual radiant enthusiasm pointed down to a vast mud hole and said: "That is the Art Building."

Eugene M. Austin, Mugar Art Building Dedication, April 29, 1960

What we dreamed of when we designed this fine arts center was a steady stream of students, young women from all over the world, spending two years of their lives on this campus and finding here a new enthusiasm for creating things with their own hands, writing, acting, singing and knowing the joy of a personal experience in the arts. I wish there were time to tell you something about the way the building itself evolved. We wanted it to be an attractive place, one which would be lived in. That is why we placed the student center at the heart of it, so that it would seem natural to come in on a Saturday afternoon and find a piano down below, or paint or get a dance group together. We wanted the arts to be, not only a part of your classroom life, but even more a part of your leisure time. Years from now, if the fine arts at Colby have meant something to you, the skills you will learn in this building will stand you in good stead as women, and you will continue to use them to enrich your own lives and other lives around you.

News Release, Colby Junior College, undated (fall 1960)

Colby Junior College will formally dedicate its new million dollar Sawyer Fine Arts Center, Saturday, Oct. 1. More than 1,000 parents, alumni, friends and college and secondary school delegates will be in attendance, Dr. Eugene M. Austin, president, announced today.

Perry T. Rathbone, director of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and noted art juror, lecturer, and author, will deliver the dedicatory address. Rathbone is the president of the Association of Art Museum Directors, and the vice-president of the American Association of Museums.

Perry T. Rathbone, “Address for the Dedication of the Sawyer Fine Arts Center,” Oct. 1, 1960

The heritage of your center for the arts is peculiar to America and likewise the kind of role it should be expected to play in time to come. The proper fulfillment of this destiny can make it rival in significance institutions far older, richer, more famous, not only in the New World, but in the Old World as well. For it has the potential of helping to shape a new culture in this country of ours through the young minds, the youthful and impressionable spirits it is here to influence.

“No Stuffy Occasion,” Argus-Champion, Newport, NH, Oct. 6, 1960

The dedication of almost anything can be a stuffy occasion, but certainly not at Colby. There in the functional but breathtakingly beautiful atmosphere of the new art center, the audience relaxed as President Austin set the tone of the occasion. He was grateful, hospitable, humorous, and expectant. He introduced those sitting with him on the stage of the theatre-auditorium. Nary a note did he use. He acted as if he were guiding guests to the most comfortable chairs in the livingroom of his house.

“Notes,” The Art Journal, Spring 1962

Colby Junior College at New London, N.H., opened its new Sawyer Fine Arts Center in 1960, thus bringing into being one of the finest centers for the teaching of the arts on the small college campus.

Collage and Light Opening Student Lounge in the Sawyer Center. The walls were paneled in natural Phillipine mahogany and woven wooden baffles on the ceiling visually divided the space into seating areas. The round counter on the far right was the snack bar, serviced from a basement kitchen via dumb waiter.

“New Center at Colby Junior College,” College and University Business, 1961

Aside from the academic facilities of Sawyer Center, the student lounge, located in the center of the building on the first floor, is a favorite meeting place before and after classes, day and night. Here is the gathering place before many of the college's special events- movies, plays, concerts, lectures- all of which are open to students, faculty, and townspeople. The popular snack bar or "Curb", as it is called by students, is serviced by a dumbwaiter from the kitchen directly below.

Terrazzo flooring with rugs outlines definite seating arrangements while a sand finished plaster ceiling with suspended wood weave panels screen light sources and air exhausts, at the same time balancing the acoustics of space. A side and one wall have been constructed of Philippine mahogany paneling while another is of a special metal molding for hanging art exhibits.

President Austin with Model President Austin explaining the model of the Sawyer Center on the proposed site.

“The Sawyer Center,” Granite State Architect, January 1965

Sawyer Center was the first building on the Colby Junior College campus to be constructed in a style other than Georgian, and there was some apprehension about possible negative reaction from alumnae. For this reason, the architects presented a campus plan, with scale and color studies demonstrating the sympathetic relationship which would be created between the new and the old buildings. In addition, they delivered two lectures on the history and philosophy of contemporary architecture, in an effort to establish a climate receptive to the new designs.

The Mugar Wing is essentially a circular building, with sections of the wall in the northern hemisphere rotated toward the center, providing the building with maximum north light, without the loss of wall space...

In Mugar the steel beams of the structure are exposed, forming part of the design, and functioning as supports for the very flexible lighting scheme. Trolley ducts are placed between the roof beams allowing lights to be moved about, and clipped on and off as they are needed to light the changing displays of art.

Sawyer Center Facade Facade of the Sawyer Center, ca. 1959, with cars of the period.