Within a few weeks of announcing plans to begin raising money to construct a Freshman Village, Davis & Elkins College received a $10 million gift. Former Trustee and long-time supporter of the College Jim McDonnell stepped up to lead the effort that will provide students with an enhanced residential college experience and upgraded housing options.

The proposal to launch the $25 million “Creating Home: It Takes a Village” campaign was approved by the Board of Trustees in September and groundbreaking is anticipated for spring or summer 2023.

“Transforming the lives of our students is at the heart of Davis & Elkins College,” said College President Chris A. Wood. “Mr. McDonnell’s daughter experienced that transformation as a D&E student in the 1980s, and Jim has been giving back both through his service on our Board of Trustees and with his generous financial support ever since so that others may share this experience. This $10 million lead gift provides tremendous momentum and inspiration for our $25 million capital campaign to provide new accommodations for our freshmen. Mr. McDonnell continues to be a blessing to both the present and future students of Davis & Elkins College.”

Gifts to the campaign are for the sole purpose of constructing the Freshman Village which will benefit students’ residential experience. A Campaign Executive/Steering Committee has been formed to propel interest and momentum.

“The construction of a new Freshman Village is a breakthrough project for Davis & Elkins College, and we are enormously grateful to Jim McDonnell for his generosity and for inspiring others,” said Chairman of the D&E Board of Trustees Mark Barber ’75. “Part of an integrated Campus Master Plan approved by our Board of Trustees in 2019, the Village reaffirms our commitment to enhance the living and learning experience of D&E students for years to come. Building on the momentum of Jim McDonnell’s lead gift, we look forward to a successful capital campaign and getting shovels in the ground in the first half of 2023.”

What is the Freshman Village?

The Freshman Village will encompass the hillside where Roxanna Booth Hall and Gribble Hall are located. Both residence halls will receive upgrades including HVAC, electrical and wireless technology, and new windows, doors, furniture, fixtures and finishes. A new, yet unnamed, three-and-a half-story, 100-bed suite-style residence hall will be constructed. The building will feature a common kitchen, multi-purpose room, collaborative study spaces and laundry and vending amenities.

The construction of a gazebo and development of the patio outside of Gribble Lounge will provide additional gathering spots and help tie the village together physically and aesthetically.

Why is upgraded housing for freshmen needed?

Essentially, current student housing needs modernization to attract and retain future students. The campus’ newest residence hall was constructed more than 50 years ago. Students of today want and require a more contemporary, technology based living environment.

Perhaps more enlightening to students is what they will experience in the Freshman Village. The specific design will allow for common gathering areas, programming and activities that will help students become acclimated with college life.

How does the Freshman Village play into the Campus Master Plan?

The Board of Trustees unanimously approved the Campus Master Plan in fall 2019. Phase I consisted of the $2.7 million upgrades to Myles Center for the Arts and Myles Plaza to offer space for campus and community gatherings. The project was completed in 2020.

Phase II of the Campus Master Plan addresses student housing in the form of facility improvements and enhancement of the freshman experience. Additional phases of the plan take into account housing for upper class students.