$5 million Armstrong gift will help build new Residential Commons

Elisabeth Martin Armstrong and William D. Armstrong, SMU Class of 1982Two 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.

Alumni Elisabeth Martin Armstrong and William D. Armstrong (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.

> An overview of the Residential Commons concept from SMU Magazine

The Residential Commons model represents a new direction in SMU student housing. The five Residential Commons in this project will enable SMU to implement its new requirement that sophomores live on campus, in addition to first-year students. Campus living beyond the first year has been linked to higher retention rates and creates a greater sense of camaraderie among students. 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.

> SMU Forum: Board of Trustees approves construction of new residence halls

“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 kick-off 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.

> Read more from SMU News

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