At the very center of Sterling College’s rich and varied dining experience is the Dunbar Dining Hall. In Dunbar, students gather thrice daily to savor the inventive creations of our skilled chefs. The building itself was constructed in 1962, during Ted Bermingham’s career as Headmaster for the Sterling School.
It was a precarious time for Sterling, according to Bermingham. The school needed to increase its enrollment in order to ensure its survival, but didn’t have the physical space to accommodate the required growth. “Nobody knew whether or not the school would survive,” Bermingham said recently, “but we knew that we needed the new dining room/kitchen complex in order to survive.” Until this point, the dining facilities were located in Kane, as were the dorms for the 35 students.
At the time, the Dunbar family had two boys attending Sterling, Tim ’62 and Scott ’67. Their father, who was ill at the time, assisted the school by facilitating a loan to be issued to cover the costs of construction.
Bermingham sourced the lumber from Unadilla Laminated Wood company in New York State. The main beams arrived on campus during the summer, and the incoming seniors were called back to campus in early August, several weeks in advance of schedule, to help put up the key structural components, in cooperation with a local construction company. The senior class climbed up the frame of the building, carrying these beams to hand to the construction workers.
Construction continued through the fall semester, and as Margie Ramsdell, Librarian, alumni secretary, and dorm parent, as well as wife of faculty member Bob Ramsdell, recalled, the building opened in time for the first meal to be served on the Thanksgiving holiday. This was a joyous time, Ramsdell said, and not just because of the traditional Thanksgiving meal—Dunbar was a much needed addition since things were getting a bit cramped.
Ramsdell said, “The students were thrilled by the new space, and we had a lovely Thanksgiving celebration in the new building.”
During the fall of 1962, the Sterling School administration decided that the building would be named in honor of the Dunbar family, as a token of appreciation for their assistance. Similar to today, Dunbar served as a social space, as well as a dining one. After the space was opened, a two-foot high platform was built, which served as a venue for concerts and amateur hours.
It is said that even today, it is possible to see the remnants of a bootprint on the ceiling of Dunbar, which serves as a remnant from the original construction over 50 years ago.