Noteworthy

Duke gets $80M gift for campus renovations

Posted March 7, 2011 12:40 p.m. EST

— The Duke Endowment on Monday pledged $80 million to Duke University to renovate three buildings on the university's original Durham campus, officials said.

The gift, which will be paid over several years, is the largest single donation in Duke’s history and in the Charlotte-based endowment’s 87 years.

“The Duke Endowment and Duke University have a shared history and a shared vision: to make this campus the most vibrant, compelling place for the most talented and ambitious students and faculty,” endowment Chairman Neil Williams said in a statement. “We have a unique opportunity to renew these historic facilities so future generations of Duke students will be inspired to learn and create.”

The gift will finance the first major renovation of West Union and Page Auditorium on Duke's West Campus and Baldwin Auditorium on the East Campus. All three buildings are part of the original campus construction that began following benefactor James B. Duke’s creation of both the endowment and the university in 1924.

“The Duke Endowment has a history of supporting the very highest priorities of this university,” Duke University President Richard H. Brodhead said in a statement. "Their splendid new gift will allow us to transform Duke’s central common spaces, creating rich new opportunities for community and engagement."

West Union served as the principal student gathering and eating space for more than 50 years, until the opening of the Bryan Center in 1982. It will be completely remade on the interior to create new student social space and dining opportunities.

“The gift will not only bring physical changes on campus, but I can also see it bringing a cultural change," Duke senior Yi Zhang, president of the Duke University Union, said in a statement. "As students utilize the improved venues as a common gathering place, their sense of community on campus will be strengthened."

Located between West Union and the Duke Chapel, the 1,200-seat Page Auditorium is Duke’s largest theater. Since it opened in 1930, it has hosted presidents, some of the world’s most recognized artists and musicians and generations of student programs and performances.

The planned renovation will update the interior, seating, acoustics and backstage and lobby areas, creating a modern and accessible venue that accommodates the demand of student and cultural groups as well as professional concerts, theater and dance productions and major speakers.

With its distinctive white dome, Baldwin Auditorium is the focal point of Duke’s East Campus and the primary rehearsal and performance venue for numerous student ensembles. Planned renovations include acoustical improvements, new seats and other patron amenities.

Construction is expected to take place in phases, beginning later this year with Baldwin Auditorium. University officials are developing plans to provide dining services and relocate existing programs and activities during the renovations, which are expected to take several years.