Thanks to Clementine L. Peterson's generous gift of $1 million, Western Maryland College will be able to restore its fine arts building to former glory and rejuvenate the college's fine arts program.
With the largest single gift in the history of the college, Mrs. Peterson reinvigorates the spirit of philanthropy that gave birth to Carroll County's largest private educational institution. In 1867, John Smith, then-president of Western Maryland Railroad, donated the seed money that created the liberal arts college in Westminster.
In honor of Mrs. Peterson's generosity and her long years of service as a trustee, the college will be re-naming its fine arts building Clementine and Duane L. Peterson Hall. Mrs. Peterson's late husband was one of the founders of Peterson, Howell and Heather, which is now known as PHH, a company that specializes in fleet leasing, business relocation and other business services.
Mrs. Peterson's gift will enable Western Maryland to restore the fine arts building, which was constructed in 1908 for $26,500. The brick and limestone edifice has housed the college's library, museum and the president's office. Since 1962, it has been home to the art and art history department.
Over the years, the construction of classrooms and offices masked some of the building's more interesting interior architectural features, including ornate woodwork and plaster cornices. Plans call for modernizing the interior, restoring the original architectural flourishes and cleaning the exterior. Some of the messy studio art programs, such as painting, sculpture and ceramics, will be located across Main Street in the art studio building. Peterson Hall will house offices, classrooms and an art gallery.
Once the building is renovated, Western Maryland will seek to have it added to the six other buildings on campus that have been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Private educational institutions are fragile. Without a constant stream of philanthrophy -- large and small -- they can easily lose their vitality and vanish. The former Blue Ridge College in New Windsor is a good example. However, as long as generous benefactors such as Mrs. Peterson come to the fore, institutions such as Western Maryland will survive and flourish.