NEWBURGH – Last Thursday, with a ribbon cutting led by Newburgh Mayor Torrance Harvey, Mount Saint Mary College celebrated the grand opening of the recently renovated Guzman Hall – home of the Desmond Center for Community Engagement and Wellness.
The Desmond Center, overseen by Executive Director Genesis Ramos, Orange County Legislator (District 6), provides wellness and educational services for underserved individuals and families. The center offers accessible and equitable educational, health, and wellness services for community members and families in the local area.
Desmond Center programing began in March of 2022 in various locations on- and off-campus. Now, most programs will take place in the new space.
“This has been a year and a half of work, of building the foundation, of creating inclusive programing for our community here in Newburgh and the surrounding area,” said Ramos. “I’m super proud of this labor of love.”
George Abaunza, Vice President for Academic Affairs at the Mount, shared Ramos’s sentiment: “Service is not simply what we do for others, but rather it is also what we do for ourselves,” he said. “To exercise a sense of purpose and have an opportunity to share our abilities is…what we stay alive for.”
Fr. Gregoire Fluet, the Mount’s director of Campus Ministry and Chaplain, offered a blessing. Then, Harvey, Ramos, and New York Assembly Member Jonathan Jacobson held a ribbon cutting ceremony outside Guzman Hall’s front entrance.
Guzman Hall was originally opened in 1963 by the college’s founding Dominican Sisters as a residence hall for young Dominican novices. The building has also served as a residence hall for Mount freshmen.
The updated space boasts a large community room that offers breathtaking views of the Hudson River, and a variety of multipurpose classroom-style areas for health screenings, exercise programs, and more. The building also introduces revamped space for Desmond Center staff and other Mount offices.
The new Guzman Hall also remains true to the Mount’s Dominican heritage, with stained glass from the former Founder’s Chapel repurposed and built into the new design. Other elements, such as a large stained-glass panel that tells the story of St. Dominic, have been retained in their original forms and locations.
Ramos thanked the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation for a trio of grants, totaling nearly $1.1 million, awarded to the Mount for the Desmond Center. The Mother Cabrini Health Foundation is a private, nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve the health and wellbeing of New Yorkers, bolster the health outcomes of vulnerable communities, eliminate barriers to care, and bridge gaps in health services.
“Since 2020, the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation has been a proud supporter of Mount Saint Mary’s Desmond Center for Community Engagement and Wellness,” said Kimberly Chin, senior program officer at the Cabrini Foundation. “Our partnership…exemplifies our shared values to ensure that our communities are represented and improving the health and spiritual and emotional wellness of the community.”
In addition, New York State awarded a $1 million Higher Education Capital (HECap) matching grant to the Mount for the construction of the Desmond Center. Under this program, the state contributed one dollar of support for every three dollars spent by the Mount, for a total of $1 million in grant aid.
The Mount partnered with Mid Hudson Construction Management (MHCM) to create the state-of-the-art wellness center. Doug Smith, director of Mount facilities, supervised the project. Both did impressive work, Abaunza noted.
Ramos also thanked Desmond Center staff members Ashley Collazo, program coordinator, and Lizbeth Beco, administrative assistant, as well as the many other Mount faculty and staff who have contributed to the center’s growth. The center would not be where it is today, she added, without its community partners and advisory board.