The primary component of the William Smith Centennial was the creation and construction of the Centennial Center for Leadership at 603 South Main Street.
In speaking with Alumnae about what they had appreciated about their time at William Smith, Mara O'Laughlin '66, Assistant Vice President for Institutional Advancement for the William Smith Centennial Campaign, kept hearing "leadership". Plans were made to form a leadership program and a center to house it, along with supporting fellowships and scholarships.
Bob Murphy, Director of the Salisbury Center for Career Services, and Kirra Guard '08 researched leadership development on campus and at 20 other institutions and developed a list of 15 facets of a successful program.
The building would be the Centennial Center for Leadership and the program would be HWS Leads. It would be an umbrella for existing leadership initiatives on campus while expanding them to more students. Kirra Guard '08 said, "In this new space, we will be able to develop leaders in our formal leadership program—HWS Leads—based on extensive research that will offer leadership skill training, self-assessment tools and—for the first time—offer HWS students a degree in leadership."
The goal of the Centennial Center was to "recruit, recognize, and retain high-acheiving students and position students to become more competitive for national fellowships, graduate school admissions, and professional opportunities."
The Director of the Center would be an endowed position and would "have the job of creating initiatives to stimulate/inspire student involvement." They would also select a Leader in residence. This would be a "woman of influence" who would be brought to campus to hold lectures, fireside chats, and workshops, and "interact with students both in and out of the classroom, to promote critical thinking, ethical judgment and communication skills."
Robert W. Stoddard built the house at 603 South Main was built in 1835. In the 1970s and 1980s it opperated as apartments. Kimberly Menges ’89 says she lived her final two years at William Smith “off-campus in a fun, run-down apartment at 603 South Main Street.” By 1992, the house was “a student residence of 21 students with an absentee landlord and innumerable building code violations.” The Colleges bought it and 601 South Main that year in order to "defend the Colleges’ borders and environment.”
However, in 1998, the houses still sat vacant. The Colleges had planned on demolishing one or both; however, the Historic Districts Commission of Geneva prevented it. The Colleges then planned on renovating them for student housing, but it was too expensive, and they didn't need the space at the time.
In 2007, the initial plans were for 603 South Main to house the Director of the Centennial Center and other offices. A new building constructed next door would house the actual Centennial Center, with a conference area, reference room, and library; however, plans changed and 603 South Main was renovated to contain the entirety of the Centennial Center. It was dedicated on Saturday, November 8, 2008.
The newly constructed building became the Seneca Room. It was dedicated as part of the Finger Lakes Institute (FLI) on October 29, 2008. State Sen. Michael F. Nozzolio L.H.D. ’07 was honored at the dedication for his support of the FLI. He said:
It has been a pleasure to help establish and partner with the Institute in working to preserve and protect these prized resources for our area. I am truly excited by the new Seneca Room and the further development and expansion of the Institute and would like to thank President Mark Gearan for his continued leadership.
The Seneca Room is now an all-purpose conference room, and also houses the Office of Title IX Programs and Compliance.