Brewster Academy Opens Toad Hall Following Gift from Leslie and Jimmy John Liautaud
May 2018 – On May 25 the Brewster community celebrated the opening of its newest campus residence. The new facility will be called Toad Hall, a name chosen by the Liautaud family who made a $2 million gift to initiate this special project. The ribbon cutting ceremony was attended by students, parents, faculty, administrators, members of the board of trustees, and generous donors who made this extraordinary new residence hall possible.
Leslie and Jimmy John Liautaud, from Champaign, Illinois, are the proud parents of three Brewster graduates, Spencer ’13, Lucy ’17, and Fred ’18. Jimmy John Liautaud who founded the sandwich franchise, Jimmy John’s now has more than 2,700 locations nationwide. Leslie is an author and playwright who currently has a hit immersive play at the Windy City Playhouse in Chicago called Southern Gothic.
In her remarks at the ribbon cutting ceremony, Leslie reflected on the Brewster pillars of Respect, Responsibility, and Investment. “I wholly believe those pillars are not just meant for the students at Brewster but they’re meant for all of us as a greater way to live life.” She noted that their donation to this project is the largest they have made to any one project; a reflection of the faith they have in the Academy.
Leslie added: “We watched our children arrive nervous, frightened, and insecure about their future away from home during their very fragile high school years. But during those years they grew, they developed confidence, they developed trust, they developed a solid moral base, and they developed respect for those around them and for themselves. I want to say a heartfelt thank you to the faculty and Brewster team for walking beside our kids physically and emotionally while they were here.”
The name of the new dorm, Toad Hall, reflects the humor and humility of the Liautaud family. As Leslie explained: “We decided on the name because our last name has a silent D – Liautaud – but is most frequently pronounced Liautoad, hence Toad Hall.”
The facility was fully funded with generous additional gifts from other parents, alumni, and alumni parents, and ground was broken in late July 2017. Toad Hall is located on the southern end of campus along Clark Road.
In addressing the crowd at the opening, Head of School Craig Gemmell described the features of the new building: “This home for 20 students and four faculty families is all about creating a homelike experience away from home. Students will have cozy rooms and an extraordinary common room that will surely function as the focal point in which community is built. Students will have easy access to four faculty residences and will receive both ample care and close supervision from those charged with their nurturing. There are spaces for kids to collaborate, to cook, to find quiet, and to find community.”
The building was designed by Samyn D’Elia Architects, and Milestone Engineering & Construction oversaw the project construction. Toad Hall’s bright rooms with large windows, a common area with radiant-heated hardwood floors and gas fireplace, and impressive technological infrastructure add to the facility’s warmth, ambience, and functionality.
A stone terrace on the lake side of Toad Hall was named Maeve’s Outlook in honor of Maeve Hentz ’16, with gratitude to the Hentz Family and the Iacocca Family Foundation. Central to Lamb, Harris, and Vaughan Houses, Maeve’s Outlook creates a welcoming gathering spot for this south campus neighborhood.
The four faculty townhomes, which adjoin the dormitory, reflect the charm of New England architecture and range in size from two to four bedrooms. They each have a private entrance and mudroom as well as access into the dormitory through the faculty studies and provide student-faculty ratios not found in most boarding school dormitories. One of the faculty townhouses was named Santomero House, in recognition of support from parents Camillo and Denise Santomero (Camillo ’16 and Mason ’22). Another three-bedroom home is named Hill House for David and Joan Hill (Sarah ’20).
Assistant Head of School for Institutional Strategy and Advancement Kristy Kerin reflected on the Academy’s broader goals for its residential life program. The program draws inspiration from the school’s signature academic program, the Brewster Model, a team-based, highly personalized approach to education where every student learns how to master academic content and the skills that matter in life – curiosity, character, collaboration, and confidence.
“Why wouldn’t we take our time-tested approach that works so well in the classroom and apply the same precepts to the residential life program? Why wouldn’t we have a team of adults involved in dorm life? Why wouldn’t we create an individualized approach to student housing so that our dorms are as student-centered as our classrooms?” Kerin asked.
In total, the project cost $4.6 million and was supported generously by current parents, past parents, and graduates. Kerin noted that a significant number of project supporters had children who have already graduated. “Their kids won’t benefit from this dorm. Yet they believed so strongly in the vision and were so appreciative of the experience their children had, that they supported us in a big way and put us on a course that will change the future of residential life at Brewster forever.
Brewster is grateful to the many thoughtful supporters of this project, many of whom are recognized with named spaces within the new building. Please contact the advancement office for more information.