The Gates Foundation: $10 million for the library is history-making gift

Donation will support planned Library and Learning Commons

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has pledged $10 million as a challenge gift toward the Learning Commons and Lemieux Library Project at Seattle University. It is the largest single donation in the university's 115-year history.

The Gates gift is the first major donation in a $35.5 million campaign to renovate SU's 1960s-era library and build an adjoining high-tech learning commons to serve the university's 7,000-plus undergraduate and graduate students.

"Students have rightly identified a new library and learning commons as the most important project for the university to undertake," said President Stephen V. Sundborg, S.J. "We feel very fortunate that the Gates Foundation acknowledges that assessment and are grateful for their support."

"We recognize the outstanding education Seattle University provides and the important ways it serves our community through its diversity and outreach," said Melinda French Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "The new Learning Commons and Library will support the university in carrying out its mission. We are pleased to contribute toward making this possible."

The design and intention of the Learning Commons is to facilitate new ways of learning—collaborative, multi-disciplinary and networked. It will accommodate new and emerging technology; learning labs; individual and group study spaces; and common areas such as a grand reading room and a 24/7 bistro.

The Learning Commons will adjoin the Lemieux Library, which will be redeveloped in order to hold expanded digital and print resources; enlarge and preserve historical materials; and create new and more comfortable study areas.

"Not only will the Learning Commons and Lemieux Library serve SU students, the new facility will also be a resource to the greater community," said John Popko, university librarian. "For example, our summer immersion programs, which bring more than 500 low income youths to campus each summer, will help bridge the 'digital divide' by providing training in the technology-rich new Learning Commons."

When the Lemieux Library was built in 1966, the university had 3,600 students—most of them commuter students. Currently, 7,100 students are enrolled and approximately 1,500 live on campus—putting 24/7 demands on academic resources. "We've been making piecemeal improvements over the years, but a complete renovation is needed," said Popko. "The Gates Foundation gift is a strong signal that we'll soon make this goal a reality."

To encourage other donors to come forward, the Gates Foundation will release the $10 million once fundraising is completed for the additional $25.5 million needed to complete the project.

Architectural plans for the Learning Commons and Lemieux Library Project were developed by Pfeiffer Partners, a Los Angeles-based architecture firm with a substantial portfolio of library projects, including the central public libraries in Boston and L.A., and the library at American University in Cairo.

Press release posted online on April 21, 2006