DURHAM, N.C. - A tower that is part of the "signature element" of Duke University's new 350-bed student residence hall complex will be named for alumni Kathleen Byrns McClendon and Aubrey K. McClendon, Duke President Nannerl O. Keohane announced Wednesday. At its February meeting, Duke's Board of Trustees voted to name the McClendon Tower for the couple in recognition of the McClendons' dedication to the "enhancement of student life at Duke" and their staunch support of a "unified West Campus facility." The new residence complex, the West-Edens Link (WEL), is under construction on Duke's West Campus and is scheduled to open in the fall. It is the key part of a new residential life plan that will move all sophomores to Duke's West Campus and accelerate a number of other changes aimed at improving intellectual and social opportunities for undergraduates. "Aubrey and Katie McClendon have long been strong advocates for students." said Keohane. "They encouraged us to take a good look at undergraduate residential life at Duke, and to do what we can to make certain that it's an excellent experience for all students. We will, before long, launch a number of initiatives that will help to assure its vitality, stimulated by this reassessment. In these promising times, it is altogether fitting that the most prominent new structure for student living should bear the McClendon name." Kathleen "Katie" Byrns McClendon is a 1980 Duke graduate and a member of the Board of Visitors of Trinity College, in which about 85 percent of Duke undergraduates are enrolled. Aubrey McClendon, a member of the Campaign for Duke Steering Committee and the Fuqua School of Business Board of Visitors, graduated from Trinity College in 1981. The McClendons live in Oklahoma City, where Aubrey McClendon is chairman and chief executive officer of NYSE-listed Chesapeake Energy Corporation. The McClendons met in 1978 as undergraduates at Duke, where Katie was a member of Alpha Delta Pi sorority and Aubrey was a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. During the past 20 years, they and their three children have been frequent visitors to the campus. "Through our gift of the tower, we are hoping to assist the university in enhancing the on-campus residential life at Duke," the McClendons said. "We strongly believe that it is critical for the university to provide on-campus facilities that encourage students to spend their four-year undergraduate life on campus. The Duke on-campus experience has always been a very important part of what makes Duke unique among great American universities." In 1999, the McClendons gave Duke two charitable trusts with a combined value of $5.5 million to support improvements throughout the university, specifically to residence halls, as well as financial aid for students, the Duke Annual Fund and the Fuqua School of Business. The assets of both trusts become available to Duke this year. In addition, the McClendons have also committed $1 million to the Duke Basketball Legacy Fund. In 2000, construction began on a 350-bed WEL residence hall complex designed to connect the main section of West Campus with Edens Quad. The WEL includes a tower, primarily for social space, and four "houses," each with room for 70-100 students. The aspect of the project that planners call "the most exciting" is the element that most closely links Edens to Main West: the terrace building and tower, which form a link between a new terrace at Few Quad and the expanded terrace at the entrance to Edens Quad. Students will be able to walk from the Few terrace onto the top of the terrace building, walk its length under a covered walkway and then enter the McClendon tower, where a staircase or elevator will take them down directly to the level of Edens Quad. The terrace building and McClendon Tower are termed the project's "signature" architectural element, combining the stone tower, a quintessential Duke form, with a less familiar form -- a flat-topped building intended for walking. The five-level McClendon Tower will be the site of new dining, social and activity spaces open to all community members. There will be levels dedicated to a cafend a diner, and other levels will have lounges, game rooms and meeting space. The tower will be a Duke stone structure. The materials in the pitched-roof and terrace-top buildings will consist primarily of the "Duke blend" of brick used in several recent projects, notably in the Wilson Recreation Center and Schwartz-Butters Building. Parts of the buildings, however, also will incorporate Duke stone, particularly at the frequently passed points of connection. Slate will be used for the roof. The architect's objective is to "recall the feel of the original Duke buildings while not mimicking designs that are unique to their era." Larry Moneta, Duke's vice president for student affairs, called the WEL the first step in making the university's student housing situation more cohesive.