“We started the process over two years ago,” President Dr. David Black said. The action he speaks of is the recently finalized acquisition of land from Valley Forge Military Academy & College.
The university purchased a 19.4 acre parcel of land from VFMA&C for $10 million. John Miller, spokesman for VFMA&C, summarizes, “In short, the transaction benefitted both schools, as well as the wider community.”
Eastern’s beautiful 94-acre campus is “bursting at the seams,” Black said, explaining that the new purchase of a “West Campus” will allow the university to continue modest growth and give it room to expand, especially in the areas of science and the fine arts.
Dr. Black shared opportunities this land creates, such as building a new, larger recreation and exercise center, a student center that will meet the needs of the student population as a whole and even the possibility of a larger graduate school.
The land parcel has fourteen houses on it, currently residences for VFMA&C faculty and staff. Dr. Black said that the VFMA&C affiliates will remain living in the houses for ten years.
As part of this arrangement, Eastern gained access to Valley Forge’s apartment complex behind Church of the Saviour, which can house 88 students.
“The agreement to ‘share’ the property is based on mutual cooperation and flexibility – we feel this is a mutually beneficial partnership and think it will continue this way for some time,” Miller said.
Currently, only one of the apartment buildings is being used as housing for graduate students, but in time all five apartments will be used for housing. The first building, temporarily known as “The Village,” is controlled by resident manager Julie Fields.
The university’s new land is about a mile away from main campus. Eastern plans to put in a new entrance to the property on Eagle Road and establish a continual shuttle service through non-residential roads as a means of transportation between the two campuses.
Dr. Black was willing to share another option under evaluation for part of the land’s development.
He explained that, as statistics of children being born with Asperger’s Syndrome and high-spectrum Autism increase, questions regarding their higher education arise.
Often, those with Asperger’s are gifted academically and have high IQs, but are seldom able to finish college due to the social difficulties brought on by the syndrome.
“We could, in fact,” Dr. Black continues, “essentially develop a transitional two-year college program for these bright students who simply struggle with social reasoning.
Using the arts and role-playing, such a program would teach social skills, so that by junior year they would be able to continue their college education and succeed in earning a college diploma.”
The idea for this school could only become a tangible reality for Eastern after the completion of a new fine arts facility.
“We have a ‘master plan’ for the campus regarding the performing arts, sciences, fitness and student centers that the Board will provide in PDF form to the Waltonian after its approval on October 15.
Because we’re not positive what we will do with the new space, it is not included,” Dr. Black said.
“Eastern,” he adds, “is a beautiful place,” with a rich history and rustic charm, and Dr. Black shares his excitement for new developments to enhance student learning.