Colby-Sawyer College broke ground on its new center for health sciences Thursday, May 4, during a commemorative ceremony on its New London, N.H., campus.

The ceremony, held at the site of the future Janet Udall Schaefer ’52 Center for Health Sciences, featured remarks from Colby-Sawyer leadership as well as statements shared by the offices of U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster. Construction of the building will begin this spring and is slated to be completed by fall 2024.

“We are thrilled to be able to recognize this important moment in the college’s history with key constituents who have helped make this project possible,” Colby-Sawyer President Susan D. Stuebner said. “Construction of the Janet Udall Schaefer ’52 Center for Health Sciences will strengthen multiple programs at the college and offer all students access to a facility that fosters enhanced teaching and learning. We are extremely grateful to the numerous supporters who have helped bring this project to fruition through their generosity.”

Colby-Sawyer announced in March 2022 plans to construct a new $19 million, 20,500-square-foot home for its School of Nursing & Health Sciences. The building and the college’s commitment to increasing enrollment in its health science programs come at a time when healthcare providers across the nation are struggling to fill workforce vacancies.

To address this issue, Colby-Sawyer has pledged to significantly increase enrollment in its undergraduate nursing program, continue to promote its Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing program and add additional health science programs in areas of specific need, such as a Master of Science in Nursing with three tracks of emphasis, a master’s degree in social work and a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree.

“The Janet Udall Schaefer ’52 Center for Health Sciences will build on Colby-Sawyer College’s proud legacy of shaping students into dedicated and highly skilled healthcare workers,” Sen. Shaheen said in a written statement. “This state-of-the-art facility will be home to a comprehensive learning experience that will prepare them for challenges and scenarios they will encounter in the field.”

Rep. Kuster echoed that sentiment.

“We know that now more than ever, the Granite State needs highly skilled and trained professionals to meet healthcare workforce demands today and in the future,” Rep. Kuster said in a written statement. “Upon completion, this site will serve as the academic and clinical training hub for the college’s growing health sciences programs.”

Schaefer, who died in February 2022 at the age of 89, left one of the largest one-time gifts in Colby-Sawyer’s 186-year history, with a portion being designated to help fund the construction of the building. Schaefer attended what was then Colby Junior College before leaving the institution in 1952 and eventually returning to complete her associate degree in 1996.

A generous donor to Colby-Sawyer ever since, Schaefer was inducted into the college’s Legends Society in 2004 in recognition of lifetime giving of more than $1 million. In 2015, Schaefer was awarded the Susan Colgate Cleveland Medal for Distinguished Service, the college’s highest honor, in appreciation of her unwavering commitment to the college.