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New alumni center to provide 'home' for Duke graduates

<p>The new alumni center, located on Chapel Drive,&nbsp;will feature meeting rooms and events spaces.&nbsp;</p>

The new alumni center, located on Chapel Drive, will feature meeting rooms and events spaces. 

The wave of campus construction will continue this year with the creation of a new center for Duke alumni.  

Construction on the new alumni buildings is scheduled to begin in the Fall and to be completed in December 2017. The building on Chapel Drive currently occupied by the Office of News and Communications will be renovated and reassigned to the Duke Alumni Association. In the past, the Alumni Association was housed across the street from the Office of News and Communication, but it is currently located on the American Tobacco campus. 

“We’ve outgrown that space,” said Scott Greenwood, chief operating officer of the Alumni Association.

According to a project summary from Facilities Management, the Office of News and Communications—currently located at 615 Chapel Drive—will be renovated into administrative offices and meeting rooms, adding approximately 7,400 square feet. A new 16,900-square foot alumni office building will be constructed next to it. In addition, a new events building and meeting pavilion will feature events spaces, restrooms, a catering kitchen, a reception area and a dedicated meeting space.

Greenwood explained that the structures will help meet the needs of the alumni center as it moves toward new goals, unlike in the past. 

“There wasn’t a real home. There wasn’t a place where, when people came back to campus, they went,” Greenwood said. “Frankly, the Washington Duke bar was the de facto alumni center. I think everyone sort of felt like there ought to be a place on campus where alumni could come back and really feel like they’re back home.”

The alumni center plans to focus more on linking current and present students in the coming years, and Greenwood said their plans for expansion are “something nobody else is doing.”

“We’re trying to do more with engaging students,” he said. “We also want to be a space that students feel is their home as well.”

The center will provide general information for alumni, prospective students and families. It will also include interactive displays on Duke’s history and a food vendor.

Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations, noted that the new alumni center will enable Duke graduates to reconnect when they visit campus.

“Duke alumni—and I am one of them—have great passion for the University and want to stay connected online and in person, something the alumni center will facilitate,” Schoenfeld wrote in an email. “It will be the ‘living room’ for Duke graduates when they return to campus—a place to meet, reconnect with the University and interact with each other, students and faculty.”

The main building of the alumni center, one of four in the new complex, will be renamed the Forlines House after it is renovated. The original structure at 615 Chapel Drive was designed by Horace Trumbauer, one of the original Duke architects.

“That building will be more historic, returned to its original glory,” Greenwood said.

He added that he feels it is important to keep the alumni center near its original location because this area is the main entrance to West Campus.

"To have the alumni and visitor center in that place really reiterates the importance of alumni to the University,” he said.

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