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A Dream Come True

The Taft family – Dudley Taft Jr., Michelle Taft, Kaitlin Taft, Dudley Taft Sr., Woody Taft, with Seven Hills Head of School Chris Garten.

Students, teachers, families, and friends of The Seven Hills School joined for an exuberant celebration of the opening of the school’s new Nellie Leaman Taft Early Childhood Center on the morning of Aug. 28. The joyous occasion included a performance from Seven Hills’ elementary school students, statements from Nellie Taft’s brother Dudley Taft, Sr., and Seven Hills Head of School Chris Garten.

Standing in the spacious commons area of the 17,000 sq.-ft. center, Seven Hills Head of School Chris Garten addressed the pre-kindergarteners and kindergarteners who now call the Taft Center their school home. The facility features learning “neighborhoods,” innovative learning and performing arts spaces, a room-size skylight, kitchen classroom, outdoor classroom space, a beautiful atrium, physical education facility, and several common gathering areas for children age two through kindergarten.

“Today, it’s like we are moving into a new house – and we’re excited,” said Garten. “We miss our old home and all the memories we made there but we’ve packed up all our things, we have all the people who love us here, and we’re ready to start a new chapter of our lives.”

Nellie Leaman Taft, now deceased, attended Hillsdale School, a school that later merged with Doherty College Preparatory School for Girls, and the Lotspeich School to become Seven Hills. Taft, a descendent of Presidents William Howard Taft and William Henry Harrison, became a elementary school teacher and continued to study the fine arts in Cincinnati.

“Nellie Taft was adventurous. She travelled all over the world. She also spent her life helping people,” Garten said during the ribbon cutting. “She especially wanted to help give children a chance to study and get excited about the arts. As she neared the end of her life, she wanted to thank some of the organizations that helped her become the person she was, and so she left a gift to Seven Hills.”

Dudley Taft, Sr. and his wife Tina shared their gratitude with the school community. “My sister would be so happy to see this,” said Dudley Taft, Sr. He cut the ribbon with several members of his family, including his son Woody Taft; his son Dudley Taft, Jr.,and his wife Michelle Taft; and Taft Jr.’s daughter Kaitlin Taft, a Seven Hills senior.

Seven Hills Lower School Head of Lotspeich Carolyn Fox said the Early Childhood Center stands as a testament to the vision and dedication of Seven Hills community, faculty, and administration. The building, located on Seven Hills’ Hillsdale Campus, houses Seven Hills’ Beginnings Parent and Toddler Enrichment Program, pre-kindergarten for two-year-olds, pre-kindergarten, and kindergarten classes.

“Our faculty, who teach the children and nurture them each day, helped design this building, and the administration empowered them to get intimately involved,” said Fox. “The Early Childhood Center houses a rich, comprehensive, and coordinated year-round program for our students.”