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Southwestern Receives $6 Million Pledge to Renovate Cullen Building

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    Lance Holt

The most recognizable landmark on the Southwestern University campus – and one of the most historic historic buildings in Georgetown and Williamson County – will get a much-needed renovation thanks to a $6 million gift pledge from the Cullen Trust for Higher Education.

The most recognizable landmark on the Southwestern University campus – and one of the most historic buildings in Georgetown and Williamson County – will get a much-needed renovation thanks to a $6 million gift pledge from the Cullen Trust for Higher Education.

The gift will provide funds to renovate the Roy and Lillie Cullen Building, which was originally constructed between 1898 and 1900 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The building is located on the corner of University Avenue and Maple Street.

“This gift will allow us to plan for a comprehensive remodeling of the Cullen Building as opposed to continuing to do renovations piecemeal,” said Southwestern University President Jake Schrum. “We are very grateful to the Cullen Trust for providing funds that will allow the building to offer beauty, function and inspiration for generations to come.”

This is the third major gift the Houston-based Cullen Trust has given for renovation of the Cullen Building. In 2002, Southwestern received a $1 million gift for the building, part of which was used to create an alumni center on the second floor and a suite of offices for student academic services on the third floor. In 2004, the Trust committed another $3 million for the project, a portion of which will be used to construct a new stand-alone admission and welcome center for the university.

Construction of the admission center needs to be completed before renovations on the original building can begin. Southwestern is still studying possible locations for this center, which will replace the current admission area on the first floor of the Cullen Building. Current plans call for a one-story, 9,600 square-foot building that will be known as the Cullen Admission Center.

“Our admission function is a critical part of the university,” Schrum said. “Construction of a new admission center will put us in a much more competitive position with other national liberal arts colleges.”

The Cullen Building was originally known as the “Admin Building” and was constructed in the architectural style known as Richardsonian Romanesque. Robert Hyer, the fourth president of Southwestern, conceived of the building after seeing a similar academic building at Harvard University in 1891. The building’s walls are hand-laid stone, and are 18 inches thick. Its distinctive tower can be seen for miles from the Southwestern University campus.

From its inception, however, the building has been much more than an administration building. It has always held classrooms, and continues to do so today. It also was the site of the original chapel, which doubled as an auditorium.

The building was renamed the Roy and Lillie Cullen Building in 1977 after funds from the Cullen Foundation of Houston enabled the university to complete the first major renovation of the building.

Today, additional renovations are needed to upgrade the building’s mechanical and electrical systems, and to bring it up to current standards for handicapped accessibility.

The building also has more than 300 windows that need to be replaced with double-paned, insulated windows to make it more energy efficient.

Plans for the renovation also include construction of a 1,300 square-foot “heritage gallery” dedicated to Southwestern’s history as the first institution of higher learning in Texas. This gallery will be located on the first floor in the area currently occupied by the admission office. The renovation also will bring the building’s interior finishes back to their original historic character.

The $10 million committed from the Cullen Trust for this project is the largest amount from a single donor to date toward Thinking Ahead: The Southwestern Campaign, which was publicly launched in March 2006. The campaign seeks to raise $125 million to fund new initiatives in four broad categories – supporting students, supporting faculty, diversity enrichment, and enhancing the living/learning environment on campus. It is the largest fundraising campaign in Southwestern’s 166-year history.

The gift brings the campaign total to more than $68.5 million. For more information on Thinking Ahead: The Southwestern Campaign, visit www.southwestern.edu/thinkingahead.