Abilene Christian University students began a new school year today, and a new residence hall project has launched as well, with a groundbreaking Saturday on East North 16th Street.
The new facility is scheduled to open in Fall 2021 and will replace McDonald Hall, which was demolished during the summer. Construction of the residence hall marks Phase 1 of ACU’s new Freshman Village, which will include the new residence hall and the renovation of Sewell Theatre into a Residence Hall Hub, a place for students to gather and student organizations to meet. In later phases, the Freshman Village project will include renovation and construction for other residence halls, and all freshman halls will be grouped along East North 16th Street.
McDonald Hall – one of eight original structures on the hilltop campus ACU moved to in 1929 – was named for Albert “A.F.” McDonald and his wife, Cornelia Elizabeth “Neelie” (Gray) McDonald, two of Abilene Christian’s original benefactors. A.F. was one of the five founding trustees in 1906, serving until his death in 1924.
The yet-to-be-named new hall will feature 128 double rooms on four floors, with eight single rooms for residence advisors and two apartments for a residence hall director and faculty in residence. Each floor will have lobby spaces, and nine study spaces will be spread throughout the 72,000-square-foot venue.
“A comprehensive renovation and construction campaign for residence halls will enhance the intentional, life-changing community students experience at ACU,” said Dr. Phil Schubert, ACU president. “By modernizing our residence halls with intentionally designed and welcoming spaces, we can better meet the living and learning needs of today’s students and improve the equity of experience in residence life.”
The $31 million project is made possible by generous donors. Lead donors Mark and April Anthony of Dallas, Texas, and Rick and Debbie Wessel of Westlake, Texas, participated in Saturday’s groundbreaking ceremony. Other key donors include Tod and Lee Ann Brown of Midland, Texas; Dale and Rita Brown of Midland, Texas; Royce and Pat Caldwell of San Antonio, Texas; Donny and Marcy Edwards of Bridgeport, Texas; Luke and Lindsay James of Dallas, Texas; Guy “Mojo” and Holly Lewis of The Woodlands, Texas; Doug and Jayne Orr of North Richland Hills, Texas; Barbara Packer of Dallas, Texas; Barry and Diane Packer of Dallas, Texas; and Jack and Karen Rich of Abilene, Texas.
“It’s in residence life and in the dorms where our experiences at ACU begin, and it’s in those places where lifelong friendships are founded,” said Abilene Christian board chair April Anthony during remarks at the groundbreaking. “Being a supporter of this project is key because the freshman experience sets the tone for your ACU experience.”