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Duke Receives $10 Million Gift for Events Pavilion

Duke trustee Bob Penn and wife, Katherine, commit $10 million to support a new space for the campus community

Duke University trustee Bob Penn and his wife, Katherine, have committed $10 million in support of a new 25,000-square-foot events and dining pavilion for students, President Richard H. Brodhead announced Thursday. 

The mostly glass structure, which was completed this summer, is located next to the Bryan Center on Duke's West Campus.

"This wonderful gift from Bob and Katherine Penn is more than a building," Brodhead said. "It is a gathering place befitting our vibrant student community, making possible all kinds of interactions and connections. We're tremendously grateful to Bob and Katherine for ensuring that the joyful spirit they found at Duke as students will continue for generations to come." 

Construction of the pavilion was the first step in the renovation of West Union, part of an $80 million enhancement of student life on campus funded by a gift from The Duke Endowment that also includes upgrades to Page Auditorium on West Campus and Baldwin Auditorium on East Campus. Penn Pavilion will serve as a temporary dining space until the West Union renovations are complete. After that, the pavilion will be a venue for student gatherings and university events.

"We think it's important to foster the same strong sense of community for undergraduates that existed when we were at Duke. Gathering spaces like this pavilion are a key part of that," said Bob Penn, who, like his wife, graduated from Duke in 1974. He earned a bachelor's degree in Latin American studies while Katherine Penn earned a bachelor's degree in psychology.

Larry Moneta, vice president for student affairs, called Penn Pavilion "a wonderful addition to the Duke landscape."

"Penn Pavilion will be a fantastic space to host career fairs, performances, banquets and more," Moneta said. 

The commitment by the Penns will help advance the comprehensive Duke Forward fundraising campaign, which has now passed the halfway point toward its $3.25 billion goal. The effort supports priorities across Duke's 10 schools, Duke Medicine and a range of university programs. Enriching the Duke experience is one of the overarching goals of the campaign. Penn serves on Duke Forward's Leadership Gifts Committee.

"Penn Pavilion will be a hub for connecting co-curricular and academic life and allow us to take the engaged learning that is a signature of the Duke undergraduate experience to a new level," said Steve Nowicki, dean of undergraduate education. 

"This is exactly the space we need to help us connect the learning that goes on outside the classroom with the learning that goes on inside the classroom."

Duke Student Government President Stefani Jones called the pavilion an ideal place for students to "meet up, socialize and enjoy some great food."

"We can't wait to use the space for events like watch parties during basketball season and midnight breakfasts before finals," she said.

Penn joined the Duke University Board of Trustees in 2011 and sits on the Audit Committee and the Facilities and Environment Committee.

His volunteer commitment to Duke includes service on the Annual Fund Executive Committee, which he chaired in 2009-10. He also has served on the Duke Club of North Texas, the Trinity College of Arts & Sciences Board of Visitors and the Duke Talent Identification Program Advisory Board. 

In 2004, Penn received the Charles A. Dukes Award, which is given to volunteers who have served with distinction in leadership roles and gone beyond expectations to help Duke further its mission.

The Penns have also jointly served as national co-chairs of the Braxton Craven Fellows and the James B. Duke Society and several reunion committees. Their three daughters attended Duke.