Drexel University has received a $25 million gift, the largest individual private gift in its history, announced Drexel President Constantine Papadakis. The donor, a non-alumnus University trustee who asked that his name not be made public, designated the gift to fund a Design Center for Drexel’s Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design and challenged the University to raise an additional $30 million for the project.
“Drexel is proud and grateful to receive this incredible leadership gift,” said Papadakis, who committed Drexel to raising the matching funds. “By making the largest single gift in our history, the donor has made a stand that philanthropic support of innovative, high-quality higher education becomes more important, rather than less, in uncertain economic times.
The gift helped Drexel acquire and will support renovations to two properties totaling 143,000-square-feet that will extend the footprint of Drexel’s downtown campus westward across 35th Street. The acquisition totaling 3.15 acres will increase Drexel’s 57-acre main campus by 5.5 percent. The site is contiguous to Drexel’s Frederick O. Hess Laboratories and it is the largest land acquisition in Philadelphia by Drexel since the addition of a 2.3-acre former Consolidated Laundry site in 1997. The donor’s support advances Drexel’s $500 million campus construction plan, under which four buildings are already being constructed or about to break ground. The new site will also allow the University to add a total of 300 parking spaces to its campus.
The Design Center includes a 13,000 square-foot building at 3401 Filbert Street as well as a 130,000 square-foot building at 3501 Market Street. The latter was designed by renowned architect Robert Venturi, who will join a list of prominent architects represented on Drexel’s campus that includes Philip Johnson, I.M. Pei, Michael Graves and Frank Furness.
“Westphal College is at the pinnacle of media arts and design programs in the nation,” said the donor. “I am pleased to be able to help the College develop a facility that will position it for even greater success.”
The Design Center will house Westphal College programs now scattered across Drexel’s main campus. It will also provide a public showcase for creative works by faculty and students.
“Our donor’s generous investment will allow Westphal College to strategically house our design disciplines—Fashion Design, Interior Design, Architecture, Design & Merchandising, and product design—along with our interdisciplinary programs in Digital Media and Entertainment & Arts Management in close proximity in a state of the art facility where students and faculty will be able to undertake new collaborations for creative work and research,” said Allen Sabinson, dean of the College. “The new Design Center will also provide expanded gallery space for the exhibition of art as well as for Drexel’s Historic Costume Collection. This marvelous new facility will help us attract even more outstanding students and faculty, particularly in the design disciplines which now work more closely than ever in addressing issues of sustainability and the incorporation of new technologies.”
Westphal College’s primary focus has evolved from its roots in the “domestic sciences.” In 1985 it became the Nesbitt College of Design Arts; in 1998 its name changed to the College of Media Arts & Design reflecting the addition of media-related coursework. Most recently, in 2005, the College was renamed the Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design in honor of Drexel alumna Antoinette Westphal.
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