Jane Haight Wells Spirituality Center Expands Programming

Approximately 200 members of the Sage community and the wider community helped the Jane Haight Wells Spirituality Center launch its programming for the new academic year at a lively talk on the benefits of meditation by Buddhist scholar, writer and teacher Traleg Kyabgon Rinpoche in September.

The Spirituality Center’s other fall programming included the installation of a labyrinth—a maze-like path that is used as a tool for walking meditation and prayer in many cultures—on loan from a Quaker community and a workshop about Mary Magdalene.


The Center’s well-attended events—in addition to an ongoing weekly meditation group and a six-week meditation workshop last spring—suggests a growing interest in a space and activities for spiritual development among Russell Sage students.


“One of the places we see the Spirituality Center going as it evolves is exploring the role of spirituality within the healing professions,” said Reverend Beth Illingworth, Protestant chaplain at Russell Sage, referring to a panel on the same topic scheduled for February. Other topics the Center will address this semester include woman-affirming spirituality and leadership in a multispiritual and multicultural society.


“It is important to prepare students to step into a world-community of diverse spiritual traditions and beliefs,” said Margaret Leathem, Roman Catholic chaplain at Sage.


Arriving at the Center’s new, comfortable location secluded in the heart of Roy Court is itself an allegory for journeying on the spiritual path, on which a person may get turned around before arriving at an inner, spiritual place, said Illingworth. But once there, the Center offers an inviting space for student-initiated spiritual gatherings and religious ritual (of any tradition). Student Hillel broke their Yom Kippur fast in the space, and InterVarsity uses it for Christian prayer.


Jane Haight Wells ’64—who served Sage for more than 30 years in a variety of capacities, most recently as dean of students —led the effort to establish the Spirituality Center in 2000, as a place for campus community members to nourish the spiritual dimension of their lives. When she passed away in 2002, many alumnae made contributions to the Center in her memory.


“A woman I never knew and the Spirituality Center she never saw has brought a light into my life which I hope will be passed on to the students of Russell Sage College,” said Sarah Luciano ’06, a Psychology major from Rochester, N.Y. who started The Living Room, a Friday night gathering in the Center. “Jane’s vision of a Spirituality Center on campus became part of me during my time here at Sage.”