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10.18.06 Students are already fans of new Sophia Gordon Hall

by Mark Sullivan

"I was fortunate to come to America. I hope the students who live here and study here will appreciate their good fortune, and continue to contribute to this country that I love." - Sophia Gordon

Students already on a first-name basis with Sophia Gordon Hall are giving Tufts' newest and "greenest" residence hall rave reviews.

"'Sophia is gorgeous,'" said President Lawrence S. Bacow, quoting dorm residents' colloquial kudos. "'Sophia is beautiful.' 'Sophia is amazing.' And the best comment of all: 'Sophia rocks!'"

Bacow shared those accolades at the Sept. 6 dedication of the 126-bed residence hall on Talbot Avenue. It is Tufts' first determinedly "green" building, with environmentally friendly design features that will reduce energy and water use by nearly a third, and that include solar thermal and photo-voltaic rooftop arrays to provide hot water and generate electricity.

"You don't feel bad when you run the dishwasher," Ashley Seawright, A07, of New Brunswick, N.J., said, with a smile. She and her suitemates were among a contingent of dorm residents in commemorative Tufts blue T-shirts who took part in the dedication, welcoming benefactors Bernard and Sophia Gordon with a giant banner reading, "Thank You."

The new hall, housing fourth-year students, was built with support from a $10 million gift from Bernard Gordon, H92, a Tufts trustee, and is named for his wife. The hall eases a shortage of on-campus housing for upperclassmen while offering the wider college an inviting meeting place for lectures and performances.

The two wings of the five-story sandstone-and-brick residence hall blend into the terraced hillside, leaving the vista from Professors Row unobstructed. A walkway leads from the hilltop campus to an "Arts Corner" formed by the new dorm and the $27 million music center being built adjoining Aidekman Arts Center across the street.

Sophia Gordon Hall "changes the face of the campus," Board of Trustees chairman James Stern, E72, said. "Together with the music building, you really have a new gateway to the southern end of the campus."

In remarks at the dedication, Gordon, a pioneering computer engineer considered the father of high-speed analog-to-digital conversion, described, with a smile, the civilizing influence his wife of 46 years has had on a "curmudgeon" like him. "Apart from my parents," Gordon said, "there have been two major influences on my life. One has been Tufts. The other has been Sophia."

A portrait of Sophia Gordon was unveiled, as was a plaque noting her story, which in many ways is the classic immigrant's tale.

Born into humble circumstances in the Athenian port of Piraeus, the former Sophia Delikaris went to school only until the age of 11, when the Nazis invaded Greece.

Arriving in Boston as a teenager following the war, alone and near penniless, she found work as a dancer, met and married naval reserve officer Gordon, and nearly a half-century later, remains his greatest friend and inspiration.

"I was fortunate to come to America," Sophia Gordon said at the dedication. "I hope the students who live here and study here will appreciate their good fortune, and continue to contribute to this country that I love."

"Sophia's" inaugural residents do count themselves lucky. "It's very modern-solar-paneled and eco-friendly," Meghna Shah, A07, of Albany, N.Y., said of her showcase dorm. Suitemate Seawright said: "The windows are beautiful, and rooms are really big. You have apartment-style living. It's the best dorm on campus."

"It's phenomenal," said Mickey Ferri, A07, of Stamford, Conn. "It feels like a hotel in here. The best part of it is that it's right in the center of campus. I have a two-minute walk to all my classes."

Aditya Nochur, A07, of Newton, Mass., said: "I'm big into environmentalism. That it's a green dorm is important to me." That the new residence hall is complemented by the new music building across the street, said Alexander Field, A07, of West Hempstead, N.Y., makes clear "the university is on an upswing."

Bacow, calling the dedication "a truly wonderful day in the history of Tufts," credited Bernard Gordon's generosity for enabling the university to make good on a pledge to students to provide much-needed on-campus housing for upperclassmen.

And because the new residence hall is "the most beautiful on campus," Bacow said, "it is only fitting it should be named for Sophia."