For Alumni, Center Will Be Place to Call Home
Oct. 27, 2015
With a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday, UT Dallas will celebrate the vision of an alumni couple working to “open a doorway to the future” with a new building where students can connect to their future roles as alumni as well as providing a long-needed home for current alumni.
The Davidson-Gundy Alumni Center, a planned 30,000-square-foot structure incorporating an equal amount of programmable outdoor space, will offer UT Dallas’ more than 90,000 alums a place where they can connect with one another and the campus.
The center is named for Nancy Gundy Davidson BS’80 and Charles “Chuck” Davidson MS’80, in recognition of a $15 million gift that is making construction of the center possible. Located north of the Naveen Jindal School of Management, between the Edith O’Donnell Arts and Technology Building and Parking Structure 1, the project received approval to proceed from The University of Texas System Board of Regents in August.
“We are deeply grateful for the vision that the Davidsons have shown in making possible this unique addition to our campus,” said Dr. Hobson Wildenthal, president ad interim. “This elegant focal point for our growing UT Dallas alumni community will be yet another milestone along our path to ever greater stature as a university of major national significance, one that provides both its current students and its graduates with extraordinary opportunity and value.”
Begun as a research center in 1969, UT Dallas graduated its first alumni as PhDs — as illustrated a few weeks ago with the news that a former student, Dr. Aziz Sancar PhD’77 was one of three scientists receiving the Nobel Prize for chemistry. Not until 1990 did the state of Texas allow the University to admit traditional freshman students.
“Most of our alumni, particularly the most recent graduates, value networking with one another and see their connection to the University as a lifelong bond,” said Susan Rogers, vice president for advancement. “The Davidson-Gundy Alumni Center will serve as a physical embodiment of that bond, and offer our alums a place to call their own on campus. We owe Nancy and Chuck our gratitude for helping start a meaningful conversation with alums about their ongoing relationship with UT Dallas and one another.”
The Davidson-Gundy Alumni Center will be built north of the Naveen Jindal School of Management, between the Edith O’Donnell Arts and Technology Building and Parking Structure 1.
The Davidsons met during their time on campus. Chuck earned a master’s in management and administrative sciences, and Nancy a bachelor’s in business and public administration, both in 1980. Chuck’s work as an executive in the oil and gas industry and Nancy’s as a CPA, instructor and in community activities and volunteerism formed their thinking about the role of the new facility, they said. They see the center as a tool to help the University empower students and engage alumni.
“The center is a place that should offer opportunities to help students begin the process of building a network that will serve them and their fellow alums, as well as benefit UT Dallas by strengthening its sense of community,” Nancy Davidson said. “Relationships can accelerate careers and enrich lives. This center is a home in which vital relationships can grow.”
Chuck added, “The University has grown and matured and, we believe, can serve its community better by making it easier for alumni and students to build beneficial relationships with each other, the faculty and the campus. We want others to step forward as well, and be a part of building this opportunity to serve our University and our alumni community.”
The Davidson-Gundy is being designed by Overland Partners in San Antonio. Named by Architect Magazine as one of the Top 50 Design firms of 2015, Overland has been part of notable projects, including the UT Austin Liberal Arts Building, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and the Texas A&M Bonfire Memorial.
Rick Archer, principal architect with Overland, described the Davidson-Gundy as a building within a park. “It embraces the landscape that is shaped by the existing live oaks, blurring the line between interior and exterior space. It welcomes the natural environment to participate in the life inside just as it invites alumni and future alumni to engage more deeply in UTD.”
The center will be the first facility that is solely designated for special use on the UT Dallas campus, and as such is designed to accommodate rentals for meetings, weddings, conferences and other events. The first floor of the Davidson-Gundy will offer a ballroom suitable for lectures, banquets, conferences, career fairs and other programming. Depending on its configuration, the space is expected to accommodate up to 800 people. The ballroom will be immediately adjacent to a spacious pre-reception area that connects to the outdoor spaces. The Davidson-Gundy also will include executive meeting space, and several more casual meeting rooms, as well as office space for alumni relations and events and operations staff.
Approximately 33,000 square feet of outdoor space will envelop the alumni center. A shaded grove will offer a relaxed atmosphere for seated outdoor gatherings. Twenty-five existing trees, new ornamental trees and decorative grasses will frame the green — a large outdoor event space with an open lawn for private get-togethers, student activities and other special occasions. An expansive patio off the green will provide an extension of event space inside and out.
“The center will help bring value to students long after they graduate,” said Melinda Ellis, director of alumni relations. “We’ve recently added several new alumni chapters across the country and increased our communications to graduates. This center is the next big step in our effort to bring value to alumni.”