$2 Million Gift to Establish the DePeters Family Center for Innovation and Teaching Excellence at St. John Fisher College
St. John Fisher College today announced the creation of the DePeters Family Center for Innovation and Teaching Excellence thanks to a $1 million gift from Jack ’73 and Donna DePeters. Jack retired from Wegmans Food Markets after 52 accomplished years of service to the food company, and in honor of his retirement, Wegmans matched the $1 million gift in December 2019.
The DePeters Family Center for Innovation and Teaching Excellence will provide the Fisher community with collaborative leadership for the design and delivery of innovative teaching and learning activities both on- and off-campus. Through the Center, faculty will have the ability to experiment with new and flexible instructional approaches, and they will have access to high-quality tools and classroom spaces that will maximize effectiveness in a variety of teaching environments. In addition, faculty will have the opportunity to participate in a myriad of professional development opportunities and signature workshops focused on topics like active learning, inclusive teaching and learning practices, and high-quality online education.
“We are so proud to name the DePeters Family Center for Innovation and Teaching Excellence here at Fisher, a place close to the DePeters’ heart and a place they have been so committed to for many years. The establishment of this Center will further our commitment to teaching and learning in a student-centered educational environment in state-of the-market learning spaces that utilize the latest technology, design elements, and furnishings, and enable the transformation of all of our campus classrooms. Jack was an innovator in business and focused on education in his work, and Donna had a successful career as a classroom teacher and innovative educator. There has never been a more important time to support innovation and thought leadership in higher education, and I am grateful to Jack and Donna for their belief in Fisher and their continued commitment to our students, our faculty, and our mission,” said Gerard J. Rooney, president.
The Center will incorporate a model classroom of the future which includes a flexible layout, mobile technology and movable work areas that allow for student mobility during the learning process and instructors to utilize the latest active learning teaching strategies.
“The Center will enable us to provide robust support for a wide range of pedagogical approaches and for faculty looking to enhance, expand, and transform what they do in the classroom. The DePeters’ gift opens the way for exciting opportunities that will truly benefit students as we further develop our active and engaged learning experiences. It could not have come at a better time,” said Dr. Kevin Railey, provost.
Jack, who spent his final two decades with Wegmans as senior vice president of store operations, and Donna, who served as a public school teacher for over 30 years, both agree that this type of innovation is vital in today’s workplace – no matter the industry.
“I’ve always been very impressed with innovation coming out of the business world, it is the secret to being successful. Innovation—no matter what you do, but especially in teaching—is most important. The Center is built around innovation. And that’s what we’re excited about. It’s important that Fisher continues to lead with innovation,” said Jack.
Recalling her own experiences as an educator, Donna agreed.
“Innovation is essential because the students will naturally demand it. They are growing up with this technology, they are ready for it,” she added.
The DePeters have been longtime supporters of the College, as donors to the Hermance Family Chapel of St. Basil the Great, Spire Society members, and volunteers, with Jack most recently serving as chair of the Board of Trustees. And they say that the context of 2020 helped to cement their decision to support the Center.
“The timing is perfect for this. I really believe that the professors will be so enthralled with the Center’s offerings. They are already experts in their field, and now this affords them the opportunity to expand their teaching skills with support from both technology and classroom spaces that encourage high-quality teaching and student learning,” said Donna.