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Alvarez College Union Dedication Postponed, Cast Iron Concert Will Benefit Victims

September 11, 2001
Contact: Bill Giduz 704/894-2244 or bigiduz@davidson.edu

In light of the terrorist attacks on the United States, the dedication ceremony for the Alvarez College Union--originally slated for Thursday, September 13--has been postponed until further notice.

Although no date has been set, the event will be rescheduled for a time when Davidson as a community can be more appropriately celebratory about this facility, and when we can ensure that out-of-town guests can arrive safely.

A concert by the alternative roots music band, Cast Iron Filter, which was scheduled in connection with the dedication, will continue as a benefit concert for the victims of terrorism. That concert will begin at 9:30 p.m. in the C. Shaw Smith 900 Room, with a $3 donation requested from those attending.

Alvarez Union
The Alvarez College Union

People at Davidson College love what they hear in the new Alvarez College Union. Ruth Pittard, director of the college's community service office, describes a constant, comforting chatter rising through the lofty atrium and drifting into her top floor office. "It's like the murmur of a waterfall all day long," she said. "It reaffirms the life and energy that this place attracts."

Though it only opened to students a month ago, the Alvarez College Union has already surpassed high expectations people had for its potential to enliven and unify the campus community. The sounds of life in the space also include pool balls clicking against each other, the sharp "tock" of ping-pong balls against paddles, and laughter of friends enjoying snacks at the café.

The Davidson community had been considering construction of a new college union building for more than 20 years before President Robert Vagt finally pulled together the resources and commitments to proceed early in his tenure, which began in 1997. The former union was a converted library, which was less than ideal because of its location at the edge of campus, and the chopped-up nature of its floor plan.

The Pittsburgh architectural firm of MacLachlan, Cornelius & Filoni gutted the college's Johnston Gymnasium, located in the heart of the 100-acre campus, to renovate it as the Alvarez College Union. The architect's plan clusters a wide variety of campus services and amenities as an open and inviting "village piazza" that accommodate accidental daily encounters as well as formal presentations.

"It's an uplifting fellowship environment that stimulates and cultivates interstudent communication," said Joel Sadler, a junior from Cary, N.C.

Junior Alison Moran from Athens, Ga., said "I am loving the new Union. It's conducive not only to socializing, but also to studying. It really adds something to the Davidson campus."

The Charles Worth Johnston Gymnasium, named for a nineteenth century alumnus, is commemorated within the new Alvarez College Union just inside the south entrance. On one of the original brick walls, a memorial plaque, a collection of photographs, and other memorabilia recall four decades of athletic competition, including a heyday of men's basketball when Davidson was ranked among the top teams in the nation. The original cornerstone, laid in 1948, is still part of the renovated building.

Student Meeting
The top level provides ample meeting and office space for student organizations and Union staff.

The building is constructed on five levels, unified by the towering central Brown Atrium, which is capped with a large skylight. It includes offices, meeting rooms, multipurpose rooms, lounges, bookstore, fitness center, a climbing wall, post office, copy center, information desk, café, the C. Shaw Smith 900 Room for lectures and intimate performances, and offices for several campus services and student organizations. It is the new home for the career services office, chaplain's office, and community service office, as well as student publications, student government, and the student radio station, WALT.

Its interior brick walls remain unfinished, and its rafters and ductwork are exposed, conveying a pleasant sense of historical informality. Rich, dark woodwork accents doors and lines staircases, and the carpet and moveable furniture employ a wide pallet of complimentary colors.

Union Director William Brown meets with a student in his new office, overlooking Richardson Field.

The facility will provide space for both large and small events. It has been used already for freshman registration, a campuswide benefit dance for the Davidson/ Cornelius Day Care Center, the college's volunteer fair, and extracurricular activities fair. Its C. Shaw Smith 900 Room will be the site for lectures by visiting speakers, a few academic classes, band concerts, comedians, and coffee house performances.

Students seeking a diversion from their day's studies can find in the Alvarez Union a foosball table, ping-pong table, television lounge area, and pool tables. The building is equipped for wireless access to the Internet, so students can take their laptops there to get some work done. In addition, several e-mail stations are scattered among its floors so passersby can check and send messages.

The Nisbet Fitness Center, which is open 24 hours a day, is already attracting large crowds of students, faculty, and staff to use its aerobic step machines, weight stations, and free weights. A glass wall in the fitness center opens onto the climbing wall for Davidson Outdoors, which occupies the lowest level of the building. The location gives that program convenience for loading in and out its stores of camping equipment, canoes, and kayaks.

The Alvarez College Union is carefully integrated into the surrounding campus landscape. The Ann and Edward L. Baker Terrace on its south side overlooks the college's running track and football and soccer field. The Mariam Cannon Hayes Amphitheatre that surrounds its western entrance provides an appealing outdoor venue for lounging and informal presentations.

While construction of the Alvarez College Union is complete, work continues toward the January opening of its associated facility, the 580-seat Duke Family Performance Hall. The two buildings together comprise the Knobloch Campus Center, a $36-million structure that creates a new center for campus activities.

The naming gift for the college union was made by a San Antonio, Tex., couple with a relatively young relationship with Davidson. Carlos Alvarez and his spouse, Malu, have a daughter, also named Malu, who is a senior at Davidson this year. Carlos Alvarez is currently president of Gambrinus Company, in San Antonio. He and his spouse became active members of the college's Parents Council, and then decided to make the naming gift for the College Union. "It's gratifying to be able to participate in this effort which will be the hub for social life in this academic community," said Mr. Alvarez.

The naming gift for the Duke Family Performance Hall comes from The Duke Endowment, which has become the college's major benefactor during an association that has endured more than 75 years. This gift brings the total contributed by The Duke Endowment to Davidson to more than $60 million.

Mary Semans, chair emeritus of The Duke Endowment Trustees, Russell Robinson, current chair of the trustees, and Elizabeth Locke, Endowment president, spearheaded the efforts to fund the performance hall in honor of the Duke family.

The entire campus center complex was named by the Knobloch family of Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Carl Knobloch is the retired chairman and CEO of Production Operators Corp., the world's leading total responsibility gas handling services company. He is now chairman of Automated Logic Corporation, a private software and hardware controls systems company.

He and his spouse, Emily, developed their commitment to Davidson when two of their daughters, Emily Knobloch '82 and Eleanor Knobloch Ratchford '84, attended the college. They have been major benefactors of the college since then, establishing a scholarship, contributing the naming gift for the indoor tennis center, and now contributing toward the campus center. Carl and Emily Knobloch have also served as chairs of the Parents Council, members of the Board of Visitors, and honorary committee members for the Georgia Regional Campaign during The Campaign for Davidson.

Specific facilities in the building made possible by donors include:

  • The atrium named by the Brown Foundation Inc. of Houston, Tex.
  • The fitness center named by Marian and Olin '63 Nisbet
  • The C. Shaw Smith 900 Room made possible by family and friends of Smith, who was the college's first college union director
  • A meeting room named by the Arthur Vining Davis Foundation of Jacksonville, Fla.
  • A meeting room named by Pam and David '66 Sprinkle
  • A "living room" named by Gretchen Johnston
  • The south side terrace named by Edward L. '57 and Ann Baker
  • The west side amphitheatre named by Mariam Cannon Hayes
  • The game room named in memory of Thad Jones '63 by friends
  • The college bookstore site made possible by the The Cannon Foundation, Inc., of Concord, N.C.
  • The café level named by Roy '55 and Sue Davis of Concord, N.C.
  • The student newspaper office given in memory of Sarah Hill Brown and Aubrey Neblett Brown, Jr. '29 by family
  • The community service offices named in honor of Dr. Douglas Hendon Clark '42 and Carolyn Jordan Clark by family and friends
  • The union administrative spaces named in honor of William Hill Brown '70 by family and friends
  • The space that serves as the home of the Davidson Outdoors program given in memory of James Carlisle Hoskins '84 by Mr. and Mrs. Springer '50 Hoskins, David Springer Hoskins '81, Caryn Hoskins Overbey '83, and Mary Anne Hoskins '87
  • The Union Board office made possible by former members of the Union Board
  • The Kresge Foundation also made a substantial gift for the building
  • Woody Morcott '60 has named a meeting room

    The committee which planned the building was co-chaired by college trustees Edward L. Baker '57 and Gretchen Johnston.

    Alvarez Union
    The Alvarez Union gets a finishing touch--its name!

    Davidson is a highly selective independent liberal arts college for 1,600 students. Since its establishment in 1837, the college has graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars and is consistently ranked among the top liberal arts colleges in the country by U.S. News and World Report magazine. Davidson is currently engaged in "Let Learning Be Cherished," a $250 million campaign in support of student financial assistance, academic resources, and community life.

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