Elisabeth Martin Armstrong and William D. ArmstrongTwo alumni who lived on campus as SMU students are now making it possible for greater numbers of future students to enjoy the residential experience with new enhancements.

Elisabeth Martin Armstrong ’82 and William D. Armstrong ’82 (right), of Denver, have committed a $5 million gift toward the construction of SMU’s new Residential Commons complex, a grouping of five residential facilities and a dining hall, designed to expand learning outside the classroom.

The Residential Commons model represents a new direction in SMU student housing. Each Residential Commons will include faculty in residence, expanding opportunities for learning, informal interactions and mentoring, says Paul Ludden, provost and vice president for academic affairs.

Construction of the Residential Commons (rendering at bottom right) will begin in early 2012. The complex will be located north of Mockingbird Lane near the Dedman Center for Lifetime Sports and Gerald J. Ford Stadium on the main campus. Expected to open in fall 2014, it will provide housing for 1,250 students, along with a dining facility for residents of the complex. Each Commons building also will include classrooms, seminar space and faculty accommodations. Currently existing residence halls will also be renovated to achieve the Residential Commons model by 2014.

In addition to private gifts, revenue from room and board will help to fund each Residential Commons.

“The Armstrong family’s gift to SMU will help ensure that future students will benefit from a close-knit, living and learning community that will enhance their SMU experience,” says SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “We are grateful to the Armstrongs for funding the first Residential Commons, and we are pleased to name it in their honor.”

Supporting SMU is a family tradition for the Armstrongs, 1982 graduates who are among three generations of family members who have attended or are attending SMU. Bill and Liz Armstrong met as geology students in Dedman College during their first year at SMU. They serve as co-chairs of the University’s Second Century Campaign Steering Committee for Denver, served from 2008 through 2011 as chairs of the Parent Leadership Council and were members of the committee for their 25-year class reunion. They hosted a Denver campaign kickoff and several summer send-off parties for Denver-area students attending SMU.

Rendering of SMU's new Residential Commons complex, scheduled for completion in 2014In addition, they contributed support for construction of the Armstrong Casita student residence at SMU’s Taos campus, where as students they attended geology field camp. They are consistent givers to the University’s Annual Fund, and they contributed toward the rebuilding of the new Pi Beta Phi house, where Liz and her daughter, Leigh, were both active members.

Liz Armstrong discusses her family’s special connection with the Taos campus

At most SMU home football games, they tailgate on The Boulevard with their extended family. Daughter Leigh, the 11th member of their family to attend SMU, graduated May 14 from Meadows School of the Arts, and in 2010 daughter Lindsey earned a Master’s degree in education from the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development.

The Armstrongs’ gift counts toward SMU Unbridled: The Second Century Campaign, which has raised $538 million to date toward its goal of $750 million to support student quality, faculty and academic excellence and the campus experience.

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11 Comments » for SMU to build new Residential Commons
  1. Robin Grisham says:

    Very glad to hear of new residential commons planned for SMU. The option to live on campus is a definite plus for the school, students and parents! Thank you Elizabeth and William Armstrong!!

  2. Martha Allday says:

    We are delighted by the plans for the SMU Residential Commons, but, as neighbors of the campus, we’d like to know the plan for Mockingbird Plaza and land on the south side of Mockingbird (formerly occupied by Mrs. Baird’s Bakery, 7-Eleven, etc.) Is there some way you can let us know what we might expect?

    Many thanks to the Armstrongs for their generosity to SMU!

    Martha Allday

    • Pony Boy says:

      The area previously occupied by Mrs. Baird’s Bakery will be converted to a multi-use, first-class tennis facility that includes indoor and outside tennis courts plus a Center Court with stadium seating. The design is in the traditional mid-Georgian architectual style. A tall brick fence in the traditional design will line the south side of Mockingbird to cut down on wind currents. According to the master drawing, the area will also be heavily landscaped.

  3. Ben Alexander says:

    @ Martha — thanks for your question. Under current University plans, the redeveloped property will contain facilities such as tennis courts and a throwing field for SMU athletic activities. The southern tip of the property will house a University data center and an enclosed, partially below-grade electrical substation.

    You can find more information at http://smu.edu/neighborhoodnews .

    Hope this helps!

  4. Avery Kintner says:

    What are the plans to incorporate energy efficient and sustainable design for the new buildings to minimize the impact of operating the facilities on the environment? These newest additions should provide a tangible example of living environments that demonstrate to the students, faculty and larger community a commitment to reduce climate and environmental related impacts.

    Thank you for your generousity!

    Avery Kintner ’84

  5. Carrie Hunnicutt says:

    This development and the area south of Mockingbird are taking students further and further away from the academic heart of campus; are there plans for a campus shuttle service anytime soon? I pity anyone having to make that hike in August/September!

  6. Dr. Allen Myers, '64 says:

    Under Dr. Turner’s tenure our campus has become showcase beautiful! However, even though parking garages have been included in the ongoing building programs non-student and probably resident parking is an issue. As a member of a small group of graduate advisors to my fraternity we meet monthly at our house on SMU Blvd. usually on Monday evening. There are times I would have been better off taking a taxi.
    I also use the Dedmon Recreational Center (love it) several times a week. This new complex will eliminate the parking lot to the south of it. That lot is also one of the few available for football and basketball!! I do understand that the stadium/museum inside lot will be available to us.
    My point is simply that adequate parking for expansion projects be they municable or private typically get the short shrift! I hope this vital and difficult problem is getting lots of attention! Go Ponies!

  7. Joe McMonagle says:

    I was a freshman in 1964. That is the year that they McIntosh/Cockrell Hall buildings opened. I was on the 3rd floor of McIntosh. My daughter was a freshman in 1999. She too was on the 3rd floor of McIntosh her freshman year. They had converted the dorm to suites. It is nice to see SMU continue to grow and make changes that help the students.

  8. John Walker says:

    It is about time that SMU committed to a residential college or “commons” model. The model has been adopted to many top-tier universities. It reorients the focus of campus life to the university campus and discourages commuters and off-campus living. In the long run SMU’s status will be greatly enhanced as students enjoy a more fulfilling and enjoyable academic experience. This development is long overdue.

    At the same time I am disappointed to learn (if it is true) that SMU intends to use the Mrs. Beard’s Bakery site as a Tennis Center. This is one of the highest profile sites in the City of Dallas and can easily accommodate high-density mixed uses that could feed on the life of the University, e.g., a conference center, hotel, entertainment venues, housing for professors and other faculty and staff, and even office facilities for companies offering internships to SMU students. The creation of Tennis Facility falls far short of the goal I dream of for SMU – creating a world-class environment for SMU students and faculty – and challenging Dallas to push itself to become a world-class city.

  9. Thank god! Those needed re-doing!

  10. Nice design and great use and look for this location. Only wish more developments would consist of this much thought and foresight in the planning stages. Great work!

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