St. Olaf College | News

$1 million gift helps transform Holland Hall into high-tech learning space

Carol and Ward Klein ’77 have provided a $1 million gift that will help transform Holland Hall into the college’s newest high-tech learning space.

A $1 million gift from Carol and Ward Klein ’77 is transforming one of St. Olaf College’s oldest and most iconic academic buildings into its newest high-tech learning space.

Holland Hall, built 90 years ago and modeled after the Mont-Saint-Michel monastery in France, is currently undergoing a $13 million renovation. This project, combined with the generous gift from the Kleins, is changing the building into a flexible, light-filled learning environment that better showcases its iconic architecture.

The Kleins’ gift is supporting the installation of presentation, lecture capture, and interactive classroom technologies, as well as software licensing for these systems in Holland Hall and across campus. With these tools, educators can use more class time to engage students in discussion, group work, and other active learning techniques. In gratitude, St. Olaf will name a sixth-floor seminar and study space inside Holland Hall the Carol and Ward Klein Learning Loft.

This contribution is among the latest that donors have generously provided for St. Olaf’s $200 million For the Hill and Beyond comprehensive campaign.

“It always struck me as the most beautiful building on the outside, but not the inside,” Ward Klein ’77 says of Holland Hall. The iconic building, which was modeled after the Mont-Saint-Michel monastery in France, is currently undergoing a $13 million renovation that will transform the interior into a flexible, light-filled learning environment.

How students and faculty access and share information has changed dramatically since Holland Hall first opened in 1925.

“Digital technologies have opened up inquiry and teaching in exciting ways,” says Provost and Dean of the College Marci Sortor. “They provide students and professors classroom access to everything from ‘big data’ and geographic information to scanned and searchable copies of early printed books. These resources enrich learning, expand the possibilities for mentored research, and help our educators spend more time working directly with students. We are deeply grateful to the Kleins for advancing learning in this important way.”

As an economics major, Ward Klein spent a lot of time in Holland Hall shortly after an extensive 1969 renovation prepared it to house St. Olaf’s Paracollege, as well as its Economics, Home Economics, History, Philosophy, Political Science, Psychology, and Sociology departments — a remodel that also sacrificed much of the hall’s interior character.

The north entrance of Holland Hall. The renovation of the building will be complete by the start of the 2017–18 academic year.

“It always struck me as the most beautiful building on the outside, but not the inside,” says Klein. “Even so, I have a lot of fond memories from my time spent there. I was also drawn to the current renovation project by the technology upgrades being done. In my senior year at St. Olaf, I did some heavy statistical analysis that required computing. Back then St. Olaf had one major computer in the Science Center. Programs were coded on a series of punch cards and run through the machine — if you dropped your punch cards on the floor, your program would crash! So I am very happy to support upgrades to help students and faculty.”

Klein credits his St. Olaf education with providing the skills he needed to launch his career. Following his graduation from the Hill, Klein earned a graduate degree from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, and then worked for Ralston Purina and Energizer Holdings, advancing to become Energizer’s CEO and guiding the firm through a separation of its household and personal care companies until his retirement in 2016. He now serves on the St. Olaf Board of Regents.

“Education is a strong focus for our giving,” Klein says. “St. Olaf gave me a great academic underpinning — I tested out of most of my core requisites at Kellogg because of the great courses I had at St. Olaf, and my leadership skills came from opportunities I wouldn’t have found at a larger institution.

“I am also mindful that my contributions didn’t cover the full cost of my tuition nor all that I got out of St. Olaf — my education depended on the gifts of others,” he adds. “Now that we are in the position to give, we felt a moral imperative to give back. St. Olaf is really a college that changes lives.”

The renovation of Holland Hall will be completed this August in time for the start of the 2017-18 academic year.