‘A lot of memories are going to be made here’: Archer celebrates opening of Academic Center


Photo credit: Julia Wanger

Head of School Elizabeth English and co-founder Diana Meehan, flanked by Board of Trustees chair Frank Marshall, Zoe Griffin ’23 and Student Body President Juliet Youssef, cheer immediately after the ribbon-cutting at the ceremony. All Archer students were invited to the stage for the ribbon-cutting.

Though the courtyard is usually empty on hot afternoons, it was full of students, teachers, alumni, parents and trustees on Saturday, April 13. The Archer community came together to celebrate the opening of the Diana Meehan Center — colloquially known as the Academic Center — which includes 33 new classrooms, two courtyards, a kitchen, a fitness center and the renovated Blackbox theater.

“It’s incredible,” freshman Glory Chase said of the new building. “I think a lot of memories are going to be made here and a lot of amazing learning is going to happen here.”

Students were not the only ones who felt grateful that the plans for a new Academic Center had finally come to fruition after litigation battles with Archer’s neighbors.

“We were at our opponents’ mercy, having to change course so many times. It felt like a labyrinth we’d never escape,” Head of School Elizabeth English said at the ceremony. “Like so many other women’s institutions, the bar has been set higher for Archer…We’re here celebrating the opening of this new building because the challenges we faced continue to motivate us. As we tell our girls, when you see a glass ceiling, you can turn back or you can break through.” 

Alumna and former French teacher Kate Webster echoed this sentiment, saying that the new Academic Center was “worth the wait.”

“I hope that everyone feels really proud to have been a part of making this happen,” Webster said. “Speaking at hearings and writing letters and supporting it the whole way through — it’s really exciting to be a part of it.”

In order to honor the perseverance that was necessary to build the new academic center, Archer turned to its history. Alumna and member of Archer’s first graduating class Lauren Finklestein spoke of Archer’s “fledgling days” in its original campus in the Palisades.

Yes, we were small back then — 28 in our founding class, to be exact,” Finkelstein said in her speech. “But we were mighty. It was a long road to make this Brentwood campus our home, but we got here, determined and unwavering.” 

Following the theme of perseverance in Archer’s past, the Board of Trustees, headed by Frank Marshall, decided to dedicate the new learning center to one of Archer’s founders, Diana Meehan.

“I’m honored. I’m humbled. And if I say any more I’m going to cry,” Meehan said of the dedication. 

It was also important for the new classrooms to reflect the spirit of Archer, which English defined as “courage, creativity, collaboration and, of course, joy.” 

“Each classroom is equipped with the latest educational technology, flexible furniture, movable projections and sophisticated acoustics to facilitate Archer’s hands-on, future-facing learning,” a sign in one of the classrooms read.

In addition to this, classrooms were oriented and designed to enhance instruction depending on the class. History classes had desks organized in one large rectangle to encourage class discussion, while English classes were set up lecture-style.

“It’s very, very important,” history teacher Nick Graham said of the organization of a classroom. “My concern was it was going to be a much bigger classroom than we’re in at the moment. But it’s smaller than I thought it was going to be, which is good because it’s just the right size.” 

In addition to traditional learning spaces, students celebrated the reopening of Archer’s Blackbox theater, which involved the removal of pillars and the installation of dance-friendly flooring.

“It’s super exciting that they kept the feel of the old Blackbox, but made it even better and easier to use,” sophomore Courtney Wernick, a member of the advanced theatre class, said. “There’s no set seating so that seats could be moved around anywhere around any stage to really change the feel of the theater for each show. I’m so grateful that I get to use this new space.”

English said the school “stands as an eloquent reminder of all our fullest potential as human beings.” 

“The opening of the Diana Meehan Center says to this community: ‘The Archer School for Girls is here to stay,'” English said.

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  • Community members gathered in the courtyard to celebrate the Grand Opening, which lasted from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. The ceremony featured remarks from Head of School Elizabeth English, Board of Trustees Chair Frank Marshall, alumna and trustee Lauren Finkelstein ’01 and co-founder Diana Meehan.

    Photo credit: Julia Wanger

  • English Department Chair Brian Wogensen’s room is located in the back corner of the new building. “What we truly cannot wait to see, of course, is the unbridled joy of our students when they finally get to move into their 33 new classrooms, the experimental Blackbox theater, the fitness and training center, the ampitheater — the new places for students to connect, dream, create and just be Archer girls,” English said during her speech.

    Photo credit: Julia Wanger

  • The amphitheater is located in one of the newly renovated courtyards. Students had the opportunity to walk through the new campus during the opening. “I think the new building is fantastic,” Bruce Dembo, an Archer parent, said at the opening. “I can hardly wait to see how the students use the new building to improve their experience and their lifetime at Archer.”

    Photo credit: Julia Wanger

  • The kitchen and servery are both adjacent to the Dining Hall. Students will be able to purchase both hot meals and snacks in the new facility.

    Photo credit: Julia Wanger

  • The wood-paneled reception area is adjacent to the back parking lot. According to a sign placed on the desk during the opening, the space creates “a fluid synergy between the new and historic parts of campus” because of the pathway to the historic courtyard.

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 Correction Statement (April 15, 3:05 p.m.): An earlier version of this article misidentified Zoe Griffin as Zoe Epps in the caption of the featured image.