An innovative new academic building, named after former Headmaster Marc van Hasselt, opened today in a ceremony led by the Chair of Governors and guest speaker Kate Adie, CBE, DL.

The van Hasselt Centre, situated at the heart of the School, houses humanities classrooms and is a base for the Cranleigh Futures department, including Careers, mentoring and UCAS support. It also includes the new communal and cafe spaces for pupils, and an English library. Marc van Hasselt, a teacher of Geography and recipient of the Legion d’honneure for his part in the D-Day landings, was Headmaster of Cranleigh between 1970 and 1984. The building’s plaque was unveiled by his widow, Tessa.

International journalist Kate Adie, best known for breaking news from global conflict, spoke about the importance of the humanities and liberal arts in building tolerance and preparing pupils to understand the world and its cultures. She urged pupils to be curious about the world and said manners would get them further in life than almost anything else.

“Conflict and intolerance are a feature of our current society and the rise of the far right and nationalist identities mean that travel is becoming harder, not easier. There are more borders now than there were thirty years ago. True global citizenship will come only from cultural understanding and a wish to place one’s humanity above one’s affiliations,” she said.

The event also included the opening of the new Leggitt Library opening, which took place inside the new building. The dedication included a plaque and seat unveiling, a tribute to former English teacher, Paul Leggitt, who has been described as a ‘brilliant teacher who inspired both the brightest and the more flickering’ by former pupils.

Headmaster Martin Reader said “If we do not teach our children to understand their nation in terms of its historical, cultural, linguistic and global context; if we do not get them to question…. and question again and challenge the values that hide behind one statement and motivate another… in short ,if we do not help them to understand who they are and understand the human condition, with all its prejudices and pitfalls and remarkable potential, how can we expect them ever to have a hope of being an effective leader, citizen or parent?”

“If we think we can influence the world, how bizarre it would be not to consider the influences it has on us. That is why the study of humanities and literature and social science is essential for our future. We are really foolish if we think our future is determined by only scientific or technological understanding.”

The modern building, sensitively integrated into the established heritage buildings, will provide a healthy natural learning environment for many new generations of children. It was launched before crowds of parents and Old Cranleighans, who enjoyed tours of the new facility.

The van Hasselt Centre has been shortlisted for both the Education category of the Building Design Awards and the South East category of the Royal Institute of British Architects Awards.