Published 12/12/13

Ideation lab

The Ideation Lab is one of Bryant's most technologically-advanced classrooms.

150 years of building a superb learning environment

Excerpted from the Fall 2013 Bryant magazine

On April 15, 1970, Americans were awe-struck by Apollo 13 Cmdr. James Lovell’s account of how he successfully guided the spacecraft with the exploded oxygen tank back to Earth. The nail-biting voyage will forever be remembered by Jack Swigert’s phrase, “Houston, we’ve had a problem here.”

Though spellbound by the astronauts' brilliant display of courage, Bryant administrators and local dignitaries were simultaneously engrossed by the formal groundbreaking of Bryant’s Smithfield campus. The ceremony did not garner national attention, but it marked the beginning of an era that precipitated a trajectory no one could have imagined—not the least of whom was Earl Tupper, who donated 220 acres for the campus.

On land previously dotted by apple orchards for which Smithfield is widely known, Bryant added more than a quarter-million square feet in the past decade and invested more than $180 million in facilities since 1996. This dramatic process has been led by President Ronald K. Machtley. During his 17-year tenure, Bryant’s landscape steadily assumed the profile of a student-centered campus through the construction of facilities that reflect program requirements, accommodate further growth, and support unfolding teaching innovations in higher education.

A campus transformed

Interfaith Center Ronald K. and Kati C. Machtley Interfaith Center, left

Prospective students visiting Bryant for the first time and graduates returning for Reunion @ Homecoming or other alumni events marvel at the inviting and pristinely maintained facilities. The newest jewel in the campus crown is the renovated Bryant Student Center. Now dedicated as the Michael E. ’67 and Karen L. Fisher Student Center, the building offers a project room, a rehearsal and performance suite for student musicians, and enhanced offices and meeting rooms for the University’s clubs and organizations, as well as modernized spaces for the Bryant Bookstore, Bryant Pride Center, Hochberg Women’s Center and the Intercultural Center.

A superior learning environment includes facilities that support students' well-being and interactions

At the Fisher Student Center dedication held in honor of the Fishers’ leadership, President Machtley spoke of their unwavering generosity. “They are two of the most generous people I know. They’ve given of their time. They’ve given of themselves and found ways to give even when it wasn’t necessary.”

Alumni philanthropy has also provided support for another recent addition to the campus—the Ronald K. and Kati C. Machtley Interfaith Center. Dedicated in 2010, it is a non-denominational place of worship and reflection that replaces the previous chapel in the student center.

These buildings, along with every residence hall, classroom, data center, and athletic field, collectively contribute to the Bryant experience, the 24/7 atmosphere of purpose that connects learning opportunities in the classroom and beyond.


The transformation from farm to nationally ranked university is largely due to the Bryant benefactors who helped bring projects like the information and technology, wellness and athletic, interfaith and student centers and others to fruition.

Such donors, including George ’58, ’96H and Carol Bello ; Malcolm “Kim” ’09H and Elizabeth Chace ; Douglas ’69, ’89H and Judith Krupp , and the Fishers, are visionaries who understand that a superior learning environment is established not only with professors and students but also with facilities that support their well-being and facilitate the interaction between students and faculty domestically and internationally.

A gift from the Ernest E. Stempel Foundation—shepherded by Diana and Lars Bergquist P’13 —illustrates how donors help the University champion these objectives. The Bergquists have contributed to Bryant’s ambitious commitment to replicate China’s Forbidden City’s Shu Fang Zhai, among several gifts including scholarship support. And the Fishers, also generous supporters of scholarships, have made gifts to the Elizabeth and Malcolm Chace Wellness and Athletic Center, including providing a new gym floor that was installed this summer.

The Shu Fang Zhai project represents history in the making, as it is the first time the Chinese government has allowed a section of the Forbidden City to be replicated and reconstructed outside China. Groundbreaking will take place next year, and the finished facility will house Bryant’s Confucius Institute and the U.S.-China Institute and will serve as an educational center for Chinese language, culture and history.

Lessons in generosity

Having met at Bryant, Jane ’79 and Keith ’78 Mahler will always remember the University with a bit of romantic nostalgia. Equally as important, however, are the memories they hold of the institution that had a great impact on their careers. Jane studied hotel and restaurant management and subsequently owned and ran her own banquet hall. Keith,  who studied finance, is a successful real estate investor.

In gratitude for their career-propelling educations, the Mahlers named a section of the Douglas and Judith Krupp Library the Jane E. Zetzer Mahler ’79 and Keith S. Mahler ’78 Periodical Center. “We have incredible memories and enduring friendships from Bryant. For me,” said Jane Mahler, “giving came down to setting an example, to teaching the next generation that the institutions that matter to us will not survive without the generosity of people who can afford to give.” Keith Mahler added, “Giving back is the right thing to do.”