Members of the Crown family have committed $10 million to create opportunities for social and intellectual interaction in the newly renovated student union on Duke's West Campus, President Richard H. Brodhead announced Wednesday.
"A university thrives when it offers inviting spaces for faculty and students to gather and connect in a host of programmed and unprogrammed ways," Brodhead said. "This thoughtful gift, at the heart of Duke's campus, is truly a gift for the entire Duke community. We are grateful to the Crown family for their generosity and vision."
The gift comes as Duke Forward, the university's seven-year, comprehensive $3.25 billion fundraising campaign, nears its $2 billion mark. The effort supports priorities across Duke's 10 schools and units, Duke Medicine and a range of university programs. Enriching the student experience is one of the themes of the campaign.
Renovation of the 80-year-old West Union building is part of an $80 million enhancement of facilities for social and cultural life on campus funded by a gift from The Duke Endowment that also includes the restoration of Baldwin Auditorium on East Campus, which reopened last year, and upgrades to Page Auditorium on West Campus.
Work on the 110,000 square foot West Union project began last summer and is expected to be finished in early 2016. The building will be home to food venues, student gathering spaces and multi-purpose areas.
The Crown gift will support the spirit of community in the student union and around campus, said Duke trustee and alumna Paula Hannaway Crown, one of the lead donors.
"We wanted to give the Duke community a sense of place, a memorable space that belongs to everyone, especially the students," said Crown, who graduated in 1980. "My hope is that when they look back on their time at Duke, this space will bring back a great feeling of remembering a happy time."
The other donors are Paula Crown's husband, Jim Crown, his brother A. Steven Crown and Steven's wife, Nancy Crown. Steven and Nancy Crown are the parents of Keating, who graduated in 2000, and Connor, who graduated last year.
"Thanks to this tremendous gift, the new West Union will become a true crossroads in the heart of West Campus," said Steve Nowicki, dean and vice provost for undergraduate education. "This will be a kind of space unlike any other on campus, a place that will amplify the sense of community that is so integral to how we think about education at Duke."
Larry Moneta, vice president for student affairs, said the gift "ensures that West Union will provide an extraordinary experience."
"Students will enjoy an incredible dining, socializing and meeting environment substantially enhanced by the generosity of the Crown family," he said.
The Crown family also has a long history of giving in Chicago, where the Crown Family Philanthropies is based. The foundation has supported initiatives that enhance education, the arts and medicine, and that work to address poverty.