Canterbury School has officially broken ground on an important new construction project that has been years in the making.

The Steers Center — named for long-time supporters and trustees, Lauren and Bob Steers of the class of ’71 — will serve as a space for the entire school community to learn, think, explore and be together.

Situated in the middle of the 150-acre campus, the 22,000-square-foot building will open in the fall of 2020 and be the epicenter of student life and innovative interdisciplinary learning.

The Steers Center will house the M. & D. D’Amour Center for Faith, Service and Justice, an innovation lab, a digital analytics Lab, flexible classrooms, group study and breakout spaces, a student center and café and the school store.

Faculty and students will use the flexible classroom spaces to weave elements of design thinking, fabrication, and ideation processes into subject areas spanning the humanities, arts and sciences.

A two-story wall of windows will look overlook the rolling hills of the community.

The development of the Steers Center is part of several new construction initiatives — referred to collectively as the Hilltop Projects — taking place over the next few years.

The genesis of the Steers Center came from the students themselves. When asked what would enhance their experience at the School, students unanimously requested a space that would serve as the nexus for student activities—a common area where day and boarding students could spend time between classes, groups could work on projects with their teachers, and spiritual growth could be nurtured.

As two of the school’s most loyal supporters, the Steers have shown their trust in and commitment to Head of School Rachel Stone’s leadership and, in turn, have galvanized the school’s progress

“Simply put, Lauren and Bob’s passion for the values, program, and future of the school—in combination with their enduring and unparalleled commitment of time, talent and treasure — has defined this chapter of Canterbury’s story,” Stone said.

The Steers’ dedication to Canterbury stems from Bob’s, his brothers’ and his father’s time spent there, an experience Bob said profoundly shaped each of their lives.

After graduating from Canterbury in 1971, Bob obtained his B.S. in finance and economics from Georgetown and MBA from George Washington University.

Bob and Lauren, along with Martin and Michele Cohen, went on to co-found Cohen & Steers, Inc. in 1986 — the first and largest global investment manager dedicated to real estate securities.

The couple resides in Rye, N.Y., and their younger son, JP, also attended Canterbury, graduating in 2011.

Lauren’s brother, Philip C. Smith Jr., is also a graduate, class of 1976.

“Lauren and I are committed to making this vision a reality,” Bob said. “We have the leadership in Rachel and our board, and the growing support of our alumni and parents, to successfully fulfill these goals.”

“Importantly, the board is committed to ensuring that Canterbury remains a school that instills character and values in young women and men,” he said. “This school transformed my father’s life. It transformed my life. But Lauren’s and my commitment is based on more than that; it is based on our abiding belief in Canterbury’s mission to inspire students to become moral leaders in a complex, secular world.”

The groundbreaking ceremony was attended by the entire Canterbury community, including students, faculty, staff, donors and trustees, and kicked off the first meeting of the Board of Trustees for the academic year.