Buildings honor donors

Union University | University Communications

By Ellen Reinhard

As buildings were rebuilt at Union after the 2008 tornado struck campus, each new structure and its name has meaning and significance.

While the names of the old campus were a symbol of the long heritage of donors, the newest names on campus represent the generosity of current donors and the future of the university.

With the guidance of the university’s architects and board of trustees, Dr. David S. Dockery, university president, decided to rebuild the residential life facilities similar to the 2010 strategic plan.

After the construction of the Quads, the administration decided to forgo the naming of each specific building, as was previously done in the older residential life facilities.

“The older residential life area was divided into two major sections, Hurt and Watters, named in honor of the presidents of the university who served from 1918 to 1945,” Dockery said. “We realized it would be better to name the Quads as a whole rather than the (specific) buildings.”

The buildings are thus numbered 1, 2, 3 and 4.

President Henry E. Watters served in the years prior to the Great Depression and President John J. Hurt gave leadership to the university in the years following through World War II. Watters’ and Hurt’s administrations served while Union was at the former campus in the downtown area.

While Dockery’s administration wanted to honor the dedication of past presidents, they also wanted to recognize the efforts of those who have contributed in recent years.

“The names of four incredibly generous gifts are found on the Carl Grant Events Center, the Bowld Student Commons, the Ayers Quad and the Grace Quad,” Dockery said. “All of these in some way had been faithful donors to the university in years prior to the 2008 tornado.”

For more than a decade the Grant family has been a friend to Union as they prepared to proceed with building plans before the 2008 tornado. Their contributions were fundamental in the creation of the Carl Grant Events Center, a building Dockery said the university “dreamed of having.”

When students moved into their new rooms in fall 2008, an empty space existed in the Grace Quad. This space became the Bowld Student Commons, a structure built with the trust funds of Union alumnae Kathryn S. Bowld.

During the dedication of the commons building last year, Bowld’s family was present to share the special moment in memory of their family member and her generosity toward her alma mater.

Looking around campus, James Ayers’ “footprint” can be found on all recent Union building projects. As the leading donor of the construction of Jennings Hall, the building was named after his grandparents, the courtyard behind the building for his brother. A floor of White Hall was also named for Ayers’ generosity.

Even after his previous dedication, Ayers supported Union during the tornado recovery. Dockery said he would not let it go unrecognized, so Ayers Quad was named in thanks of the family’s kindness.

Another one of Union’s faithful donors is Harry Smith, former chairman of the board of trustees, his family and the Grace Foundation. The group is represented through the Grace Quad and the third floor of White Hall.

Amidst the monetary gifts of Union supporters, Dockery said his administration could not forget the blessings God had given Union throughout the crisis and recovery.

“The naming of Providence Hall and the Hope Quad were ways for us to thank our great and almighty God for his grace to us during and following the storm,” Dockery said. “He protected us, sustained us and, in his majestic providence, he gave us the gift of hope that carried us through the months following the devastation; hope that allowed us to see renewal come from the rubble.”

Names have changed due to the tornado, but their legacy can be found in Union’s culture.

Whether their names are replaced or they are commemorated in the center of the Quads, each member of the Union family will be remembered for the love, generosity and hard work they gave.

“We pray the names on the buildings will give us an opportunity to tell the following generations of the guidance of our almighty and providential God,” Dockery said.

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