A transformative architectural presence. A venue for university-wide ceremonies, events, lectures and concerts. And an intimate, loud and worthy home court for Longwood athletics competition, all right in the heart of campus.
Longwood University on Wednesday announced the largest gift in the institution’s history, a $15 million contribution from philanthropist Joan Brock ’64, which will go toward the construction of a new convocation and events center next to Willett Hall. The facility, now in its early design stages, will echo Longwood’s traditional architectural style. Construction is aimed for completion by the spring of 2022.
The Joan Perry Brock Center will provide a gathering space for campus events and ceremonial traditions such as Convocation and the Honor and Integrity Ceremony, as well as serving as a much-needed location where the student body can assemble. And it will serve as an attraction across the region for high-caliber speakers as well as touring musicians and other performers – boosting the college-town energy of a resurgent Farmville.
This center will be a beautiful, elegant addition to the center of our campus, and its benefits will redound to countless future students as well as our broader college-town vibrancy.Longwood President W. Taylor Reveley IV Tweet This
“Longwood is set apart by its sense of community, camaraderie and togetherness, which have shaped graduates down through the generations, and that is something Joan understands profoundly,” said Longwood President W. Taylor Reveley IV. “We are so deeply grateful, humbled, and energized by the generosity of this gift, and by Joan’s commitment to support those ideals. This center will be a beautiful, elegant addition to the center of our campus, and its benefits will redound to countless future students as well as our broader college-town vibrancy.”
Brock said she wanted to continue repaying a debt to Longwood for its formative impact on her own life, and for introducing her to those who remain her closest friends. As she and President Reveley discussed what might most powerfully advance the university, the idea of creating a central place for the full campus community to gather in person for shared experiences had special resonance.
“I’m pleased that it’s going to be a focal point for the whole community to interact, not just Longwood,” said Brock. “It will be a rallying place. Those shared experiences are very important, locking arms with your neighbors, going forward together with a common goal. I’m delighted just thinking about the opportunities on campus that students will be able to walk to. And it’s going to be such a bonus for the broader community – speakers, concerts, shows. It’s going to give the whole region an opportunity to come together. President Reveley has been such a great catalyst, visionary and strategic thinker for the school, and Longwood is really a place that is moving forward.”
I’m pleased that it’s going to be a focal point for the whole community to interact, not just Longwood.Joan Brock ’64 Tweet This
Brock and her late husband Macon provided what had been until now Longwood’s largest gift: $5.9 million donated in 2016 to create a unique series of place-based transformational learning experiences that take students to locations around the United States to study cross-disciplinary civic challenges. Their gifts also made possible Brock Commons, the pedestrian walkway through central campus on which the new building, as envisioned in the 2015 Campus Master Plan, will serve as a landmark.
“This is a great day for Longwood and for all of Farmville,” said Farmville Mayor David Whitus ’83. “It will be a tremendous addition to our community to have a place in the heart of town where our community can gather, that will attract visitors to the region, and that will make this an even more fabulous community in which to live and work.”
As a home for Longwood’s men’s and women’s Division I basketball programs, the new center is expected to seat between 2,500 and 3,000. It will provide a significant upgrade from the Lancers’ current space in Willett Hall, but maintain an intimate scale that facilitates an electric atmosphere by keeping fans – and especially students – close to the action.
“This building will be truly at the very heart of our campus, and will have real character and a soul, inside and out,” said Courtney Hodges, Vice President for Institutional Advancement. “As the University moves forward with planning, our north star will be to create a distinctive and inspiring place in tune with the look of Longwood’s campus and with its community-minded spirit.”
The new building will be located on the current site of Longwood’s tennis courts, which will be relocated this summer a few hundred yards to the south, off Brock Commons but still on central campus. Initial design schemes call for an elegant passageway to run between Willett and the new building, creating a convenient and aesthetically pleasing route connecting Brock Commons and the Curry and Frazer residence halls, which are currently being remodeled.
The announcement comes on the heels of the Longwood men’s basketball program’s most successful overall season of the Division 1 era, winning 16 games and earning its first-ever post-season berth, which included a 90-68 upset win over Southern Mississippi in the CBI Invitational.
“This is truly a transformative day for Longwood University, Longwood athletics and the future of our men’s and women’s basketball programs,” said Interim Athletics Director Michelle Meadows. “The Joan Perry Brock Center takes us to a championship level in our ability to recruit and compete, while providing our students, fans and community a venue they can be proud of and a place to share and display their collective Longwood spirit for years to come. We wish to extend our deepest thanks to Mrs. Brock for her belief and investment in Longwood’s future.”
The building will also be designed with an eye toward supporting a possible future opportunity for Longwood to host a national general election debate, as it did in 2016 with the U.S. Vice Presidential Debate, which took place in Willett and attracted more than 2,500 journalists from around the world. With various construction projects moving forward, Reveley confirmed the university is not putting its name forward to host in 2020.
“Hosting the 2016 debate was instrumental for the momentum Longwood enjoys today, and having this facility will greatly strengthen Longwood as a host institution should we choose to do so again in the years to come,” Reveley said.
Construction and additional financing will be overseen through the Longwood University Real Estate Foundation. The university is committed to complementing the traditional architectural style of central campus, but otherwise the planning and design process remains in its earliest stages. Preliminary estimates of the total cost of the building range between $35 and $40 million.
Brock said she has been deeply moved to see Longwood’s energy, progress, confidence and rising national profile in recent years, and believes the strong sense of place around its central campus is essential to that success.
“Just look at the new Upchurch University Center, what that’s done for the whole spirit of the campus,” Brock said. “It brings students together and really drives that community spirit. In today’s world people are hooked up to their phones and computers. It’s refreshing to be able to be present with your classmates.”
More broadly, Brock said her commitments to Longwood stem from pride in its current direction and gratitude for its impact on her life and career. “I feel indebted to Longwood,” she said. “I feel like it’s my turn to pay back, because of what Longwood did for me and for my friends. I’m happy that this will make a real difference.”