Meanwhile, work on the new campus had begun in earnest at the start of the new year in 1963, beginning with the installation of the eight-foot culverts that would enable the campus’s access road to bridge Arroyo Chamisa, followed by the laying of the water and gas lines. On April 22nd an official groundbreaking ceremony was held, with John Meem using the same shovel that had been used in 1956 when ground had been broken in Annapolis for the Key Memorial and Mellon Hall.
In The Colonization of a College, Richard Weigle quotes from a letter Meem wrote later that week describing the event:
There were about 60 persons there; they parked on the causeway and slowly climbed the hill to the designated spot—it was like a pilgrimage and perhaps that set the tone for the event—that and the fact that the site looked particularly lovely, in spite of a chill wind blowing.
Meem himself made the following remarks at the ceremony:
This simple ceremony has a three-fold significance. In the long history of St. John’s College in Annapolis, it marks the moment when, because of a sound and successful program in liberal education under dynamic leadership, it has outgrown its physical limitations and must expand. This ground-breaking is a symbol of that growth.
It is also an historical event for the City of Santa Fe and the State of New Mexico. One of the oldest colleges in America and one of its most distinguished is about to construct a campus on our soil, thus increasing our educational facilities and immeasurably enriching our culture.
And, finally, it is an important event in the history of education in the United States of America for here—for the first time in our country—a college has adopted a policy of expanding, not by enlarging its local facilities, not by constructing regional branches, but by establishing extensions of its campus throughout the nation. Santa Fe has the honor, in response to our invitation, of being chosen for the first campus extension to be so established.
Ladies and Gentlemen: By virtue of authority invested in me by the Board of Visitors and Governors, I hereby break ground for the first group of buildings to be constructed on the campus of St. John’s College in Santa Fe.