Students were coming and going through the first floor lobby of the 20 Somerset building one recent afternoon. Some carried cups of coffee, no doubt fueling up for the long night of studying ahead. After all, it is that time of year.

Some studied quietly, feet up on an ottoman or huddled over a laptop. Digital signage screens broadcast upcoming events such as a Walk for Change, yoga practice, and the weekly Diversity Coffee gathering. Paper flyers and posters next to the elevators took a more traditional approach, inviting students to Passion Latina’s upcoming Culture and Fusion Spring Dance Showcase, and advertising a session on Diversity in the Financial Services Profession, to note just a couple of examples. Downstairs in the Smith Dining Hall, students chatted in pairs at high-top tables and studied together around laptops. Others worked solo, earbuds in place.

Upstairs, a few students worked in the science labs while others studied together in a conference room. Outside, Roemer Plaza was quiet, not quite warm enough yet for people to sit and talk or read under the sun. A faculty member walked from crowded table to crowded table in a classroom visible through the big window above the Suffolk University sign on the building’s facade.

This building. This incredible building, brimming with academic and student life, is so central to who we are as a University, and a quick walk through the lobby on just about any day will reveal just that. It provides an instant snapshot of our vitality, our diversity, our excellence, and our engagement. Since it opened in 2015, the building has been central to our academic enterprise, and to our cocurricular life as well.

Lennie Samia with scholarship recipients

It is a building to be celebrated, and I can’t wait to do just that this Friday, April 12, when we will name the building for an alumnus who is passionate about Suffolk’s mission and who has been so generous to this University. I hope you will join me at the dedication ceremony at noon on Roemer Plaza, when we will rename 20 Somerset the Leonard J. Samia Academic Center, and then celebrate with a reception and lunch.

Lennie Samia, who graduated from the Business School in 1969, experienced firsthand the transformative power of a Suffolk education. He credits his Suffolk education as playing a major role in his considerable success. And he is deeply invested in helping others access those life-changing experiences. The $10 million gift that he is making to the University supports student scholarships, opening doors of opportunity that might otherwise not exist. In short, Lennie is giving back, and we are so grateful to him and the Samia family for that generosity.

How fitting it is that on Friday April 12, we will name this building that is so central to our academic mission the Leonard J. Samia Academic Center after a quintessential Suffolk graduate. I look forward to seeing you all there.


Marisa J. Kelly