Friday, December 9, 2011
By Luther Turmelle
The focus of Dartmouth College’s new Life Sciences Center is finding new ways to save and improve lives, but a portion of the $90 million building honors the memories of the wife and children of Dr. William Petit, who is a member of the school’s class of 1978.
Dr. Petit and members of his family traveled to Hanover, N.H., last month to celebrate the dedication of the Class of 1978 Life Sciences Center. The 174,500-square-foot building includes the Petit Family Gallery on the first floor.
The gallery features a large blue quilt mounted on the wall and as well as a photo of Petit, with his wife, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, and his daughters, Hayley and Michaela. Had she not been murdered in July 2007 with her mother and sister, Hayley Petit would have attended Dartmouth and graduated from the Ivy League school as a member of the class of 2011.
The quilt was knitted by the mother of a Dartmouth student whose daughter was in the class of 2011, said Bill Daniel, one of Petit’s college suite mates and the co-head agent for the class of 1978.
“The mother created that quilt as way of coping with her grief,” Daniel said.
The Petit murders “hit our class hard,” he said.
“You’re in the middle of nowhere in New Hampshire and you bond,” Daniel said of the Dartmouth experience. “When we were at Dartmouth during our freshman and sophomore years, Bill knew so many people by name that he was known as the Mayor of New Hampshire Hall, which our dormitory, All these years later and he still knows everyone by name.”
Dartmouth’s class of 1978 raised more than $40 million for the building. But the class raised another $1 million to create the Petit Family Gallery, which is near the student entrance to the Life Sciences Center, Daniel said.
“It was not hard to get people behind that effort,” he said of the additional donations. “We wanted to honor Bill, and what was important to him was that people not forget his wife and daughters and that they were all involved in giving and in serving others. What happened to his family is tragic, but now there’s something to honor there memory for as long as there is a building there, which is a lot longer than any of us will be around.”
The idea for the gallery sprung out of the class of 1978’s 30-year reunion in fall 2008, Daniel said.
“When you have a classmate that has gone through what Bill has, you support each other,” he said. “And I think Bill appreciates that.”
In New Haven Thursday, while he was waiting for the jury to decide whether Joshua Komisarjevsky should be executed or serve life in prison for his role in the home invasion, Petit said, “I’m humbled that they chose to honor my family by having the gallery.”
“It’s a gorgeous building, an amazing facility,” Petit added. “It’s due to the generosity of the entire class.”