The Heritage Commission of Delaware County and Delaware County Council recently presented the Leedom B. Morrison Award to Widener University and the Chester Higher Education Council for their efforts to readapt a 19th-century home in Chester for use as the College Access Center of Delaware County.
The award is presented annually to a project that has contributed to the preservation of the history of the city of Chester.
The building, located at 400 E. 21st Street in Chester, was built in the late 1800s. The two-story, stone building, constructed in Colonial Georgian style, was rehabilitated while retaining its character-defining features and preserving it architectural integrity. Renovations to the building were completed in January 2009 when the College Access Center opened to the public. The project was nominated by Bill Payne, planning director for the city of Chester. Widener owns the property and was responsible for the rehabilitation efforts.
“Widener was very fortunate to have such a beautiful, historic building on campus and to be able to renovate that building for a purpose that serves the people of Chester and Delaware County,” said James T. Harris III, Widener University president. “We thank the Heritage Commission of Delaware County and Delaware County Council for this honor.”
The College Access Center provides free college preparation services to high school students and adults. Services include college and career awareness, study skills development, tutoring, mentoring and assisting high school seniors and their parents with the college financial aid process.
The center is equipped with a computer laboratory and resource room for residents to research a broad range of higher education opportunities and complete online applications and financial aid forms. It also includes space for group and individual advising and workshops.
The College Access Center is a joint initiative of the Chester Higher Education Council, a nonprofit organization formed by the presidents of Widener, Cheyney University of Pennsylvania, Delaware County Community College, Neumann University, Penn State – Brandywine and Swarthmore College.
“Today’s workforce, especially as our region grows its service economy, needs college graduates to thrive,” said David R. Fair, senior vice president for Community Impact for the United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania. (The College Access Center ties in directly with the United Way’s strategy for encouraging college graduation.) “A typical college graduate earns more than $1 million more in their lifetime than one who only has a high school diploma. This center helps hundreds of young people get a better start.”
The Heritage Commission is a volunteer body appointed by Delaware County Council with a mission to encourage historical and cultural awareness and preservation within the county. The award is named for Morrison, who served as planning director for the city of Chester from 1969 to 1990.
It marked the third time in the last four years that Widener was honored by the Heritage Commission.
In 2010, Widener received the Leedom B. Morrison Award for the preservation of the papers of George Raymond, long-time director of the Chester NAACP. In 2009, Widener won a Preservation Award for Connections: A Timeline of Our History, a permanent exhibit in Widener’s Alumni Auditorium that includes interconnected timelines of Pennsylvania Military College/Widener, the city of Chester and the United States since 1821.