University of Oklahoma supporters, faculty, staff and students gathered beneath a bright blue Tuscan sky in Arezzo, Italy, on June 27 to celebrate a new era in international studies.
President David L. Boren and local dignitaries that included Arezzo Mayor Alessandro Ghinelli cut the ribbon that formally dedicated the Santa Chiara Monastery. OU’s flagship international study abroad center underwent seven years of renovations funded by private individuals, with a lead gift of $200,000 from the Francis and Kathleen Rooney Foundation. The facility has been named the Kathleen and Francis Rooney Family Residential Learning Center in recognition of Ambassador and Mrs. Rooney’s support.
The Santa Chiara Monastery was purchased with $2.6 million in private support and renovated through $3.7 million in gifts. The 30,000-square foot facility can host up to 48 OU students at a time and features classrooms, conference rooms and seminar rooms with restored frescoes from the 17th and 18th centuries. Students have access to faculty members who live on site, a full kitchen and cafeteria, library and study spaces, videoconferencing and teleconferencing, as well as a loggia and Tuscan garden.
Additional key gifts were made by Inasmuch Foundation, Bill and Gayle Parker, Jon and Dee Dee Stuart and the Stuart Family Foundation, Curtis and Joanne Mewbourne, the Lobeck Taylor Family Foundation, William and Joffa Kerr, and the Grayce B. Kerr Foundation. More than two dozen individuals gave to naming opportunities, study abroad scholarships and the center’s endowment.
One in three students currently study abroad during their time at OU, according to the College of International Studies. Expansion of international education has been a centerpiece of President Boren’s vision for the university, particularly in light of today’s geopolitical challenges and global economy.
“We must have partnerships in the world built through trust and mutual understanding,” Boren told those celebrating the Arezzo dedication. “This generation of students must be the best-educated in terms of understanding the world that we have ever produced. Our future depends upon us knowing about each other and understanding each other. That’s the challenge. And that’s why there could not be a more important time for us to be cutting a ribbon on this great facility."