ONARCHITECTURE- Breath of Boston: UVA's Bavaro Hall built on student loans
The Curry School's new $37 million Bavaro Hall will be built with help from a $22 million donation from Daniel Meyers, who made his fortune offering private student loans.PHOTO BY WILL WALKER
Last Friday, October 5, UVA president John Casteen and others got to wield fancy shovels to break ground on yet another multi-million dollar building project, this time the $37 million Bavaro Hall, a long-awaited addition that will double the size of the Curry School of Education.
Casteen called the new building "absolutely essential," noting that Curry faculty and students have had to use off-grounds space for some time. New Curry dean Robert Pianta said the building signals an "exciting new era" for the school, according to a UVA release.
Bavaro Hall will be designed by the firm that did the Darden School, New York-based Robert A.M Stern Architects, and will include conference rooms, a garden courtyard, and multiple "open conversation areas" outside faculty offices.
A highly visible project, the new building will be located on the site of what is now a parking lot on Emmet Street between the McCormick Road Bridge and the nearby pedestrian bridge. With its gables and prominent arched window, Bavaro Hall will echo architectural themes found in Boston's venerable Faneuil Hall.
Even without the retro architectural flourishes, which include a pair of columns flanking the major fenestration, Bavaro Hall will change the face of Emmet Street by blocking the view of the Curry's schools current headquarters, the early 1970s Ruffner Hall.
Present at the groundbreaking was Daniel M. Meyers, 44, chair of the Curry Foundation, and former CEO and co-founder of First Marblehead Corp., a Boston-based company that specializes in facilitating privately funded student loans. Meyers donated $23 million to the project and asked that the building be named after his old friend and mentor, Anthony D. "Wally" Bavaro, who played pro football for the San Francisco 49ers in the 1960s, and was Meyers' coach and teacher when he was growing up in Massachusetts.
Meyers and a partner started First Marblehead in the early 1990s, took it public in 2003, and by 2006 Meyers had cashed in over $80 million in stock and held $188 million more.
However, in 2005, improper gifts to a female executive led to Meyers' resignation as CEO, according to a story in the Boston Globe. And just recently, Meyers and First Marblehead were featured in a New York Times story on these types of student loans, which have been compared to sub-prime mortgages. Marketed to students unable to obtain cheaper government-subsidized loans, they carry higher interest rates.
According to the Times, the average interest on a loan through Marblehead is 11 percent, while federal student loans can't go above 6.8 percent. In the last decade, business has been booming as college costs have soared; and so has the amount of debt students have incurred.
As the Times reports, New York's attorney general, Andrew Cuomo, has exposed some questionable dealings between some lenders and some colleges. Cuomo alleges that many lenders have been paying kickbacks to colleges for steering business to preferred lenders.
Whether UVA received one of the 400 warning letters Cuomo sent out in March could not be immediately learned, but in a recent Washington Post story, UVA's director of student financial services revealed that while UVA deals with a single lender, Bank of America, the school receives "no recompense in any way."
Ah, but in monopolistic situations, lenders can receive plenty of recompense on the backs of struggling students and graduates. And that's part of why First Marblehead was recently subpoenaed by Cuomo's office, which asked the company to hand over documents from the last six years.
Meyers, the Times reports, grew up fatherless and had to hold several jobs to put himself through college. He insists that First Marblehead has nothing to hide and that the company will cooperate fully with the investigation.
If there's a cloud over First Marblehead, it wasn't visible at the groundbreaking. Under sunny skies and before a smiling President Casteen, Meyers and several members of the Bavaro family took hold of shovels to start the construction process. Bavaro Hall should be completed by 2010.
Boston's 1762 landmark.
PHOTO BY ZOONABAR/CHRIS BROWN
Seen from the south, Bavaro Hall will give Emmet Street a Faneuil Hall-esque look.
COURTESY UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA
UVA president John Casteen poses with shovel.
PHOTO BY WILL WALKER
Members of the Bavaro family with donor Daniel Meyers at far right.
PHOTO BY WILL WALKER