Bart Holaday came to Exeter as a Rhodes Scholar from North Dakota in 1965. He read for a two-year PPE degree and became heavily involved in College life.
Fast-tracking 50 years, Bart remembers clearly his first discussion in 2009 with former Rector Dame Frances Cairncross about the opportunity to purchase the site for sale on Walton Street. He admired her commitment and vision and was delighted to be involved in the plans for the new campus from the outset.
“It’s an incredible opportunity to expand the College’s footprint in such a significant way 700 years after our foundation, and it’s a great thing for the University too,” Bart said in a phone call to us recently. “My wife Cathy and I were taken in by the College’s ambition to achieve this enormous project and we are delighted to play our part in bringing Exeter’s third quadrangle into existence.”
Bart fully believes that Exeter should offer more modern facilities to students. During his two years at the College he lived in staircase 7 on the Front Quad and in a room in Margary Quad, which was then only two years old and which offered some of the most modern accommodation in Oxford at the time. He feels it is only right that the College develop 21st century residential and study space to better meet the needs of today’s students.
Bart and Cathy are particularly excited by the thoughtful design of Cohen Quadrangle, with its intermingled learning and living spaces. Bart feels strongly that as much of his Oxford education happened outside his tutorials as in them, such as the spontaneous discussions that happened in the undercroft buttery, or the debates that took place over dinner in Hall. During his time at Oxford he met students of many nationalities and from many backgrounds, who influenced him profoundly and encouraged him to broaden his perspective.
Through their family foundation, the Dakota Foundation, Bart and Cathy have made a gift to Cohen Quadrangle to support precisely this: the interdisciplinary, intellectual-come-social contact that springs up in collegiate spaces. In recognition of this gift, Exeter is delighted to name the Dakota Café at Cohen Quad in Bart and Cathy’s honour.
The Dakota Café, serving hot and cold drinks, sandwiches, cakes and other snacks, will be at the heart of Cohen Quadrangle. It will have plentiful seating space and an open, friendly feel, where students can meet to socialise or study – or both. With WiFi throughout and generous opening hours, it will be a popular part of Cohen Quad. In many ways, it has been devised to echo those same gatherings and discussions that Bart experienced as a student at Exeter in the 1960s, in a modern setting.
Bart finished our call by saying how much he has enjoyed following the genesis of Cohen Quad and how excited he is by its imminent opening. He feels there could be no better way for Exeter to enter its eighth century than by expanding its physical footprint in this way. “Cohen Quadrangle is innovative, creative and focussed on students: what a vastly positive thing this is for Exeter College.”