Morehouse Hall to become dynamic student center with dedicated intercultural space

Individuals from Sammons Financial Group along with member from the Drake community held a ceremonial groundbreaking to mark the start of the Morehouse Hall renovation project. Pictured from left to right: Rob TeKolste, President at Sammons Financial; Brent Mardis, Vice President, Chief Strategy Officer at Sammons Financial; Ruwayda Egal, Drake Student Body President; Marty Martin, Drake University President; and Peggy Fischer, alumna and past chair of the Drake University Board of Trustees.

Today, on the eve of National Philanthropy Day, Drake University held an event to celebrate the undertaking of its latest campus development project: the renovation and revitalization of Morehouse Hall. The former residence hall, one of the most beautiful and historical buildings on campus, is being transformed into a lively student center that will serve as a gathering place and home base for more than 150 student-led campus organizations.

A historical rendering shows the original Georgian-style design of Morehouse Hall, which opened in 1931 as an all-women dormitory.

A rendering shows what the exterior of the newly renovated Morehouse is expected to look like, which will include the development of the Sammons Intercultural Center and Sammons Plaza.

Eleven million dollars has been raised for the project, and total construction costs are expected to be 100% donor-funded. The revitalization project is estimated to take 12 to 18 months.

“After Morehouse has served as a residence and gathering space for nearly 100 years, we are thrilled to begin its revitalization to better serve our student community,” said Marty Martin, Drake University president. “Within these historic walls, students will have the opportunity to engage with our diverse makeup of student-led organizations, find a sense of belonging, and get involved with issues and causes that provide greater purpose.”

This impactful, student-first project is made possible in large part by the many donors who have contributed to The Ones: Drake’s Campaign for the Brave and Bold. They include Sammons Financial Group, which recently committed $3.15 million to The Ones campaign, $1.75 million of which will help fund the Morehouse revitalization and the development of the Sammons Intercultural Center and Sammons Plaza at Morehouse.

The renovated Morehouse is expected to include collaboration and workspace for more than 150 student-led campus organizations.

The renovated building will be home to Drake’s first dedicated intercultural space, named the Sammons Intercultural Center. It will also include gathering and socialization spaces for students.

The Sammons Intercultural Center will occupy the ground floor of Morehouse and become home to Drake’s first dedicated intercultural space. Sammons Plaza, adjacent to the center, will offer a place for the Drake community to build relationships that are central to the university experience and that will propel graduates into the world.

“Many students actively seek a ‘home away from home.’ We feel this center will be a welcome addition to campus—one that will elevate their university experience,” said Esfand Dinshaw, chief executive officer of Sammons Financial Group. “We are excited to celebrate with Drake as we break ground on the Sammons Intercultural Center and Sammons Plaza and, through the corresponding scholarships, recognize the increasing diversity of Drake’s student population.”

Additional leadership donors include:

  • Peggy Fisher, FA’70, and her husband, Larry Stelter: Their gift will be recognized in the building’s historical ballroom, which will serve as a student collaboration space.
  • The Ruan Foundation: They will be recognized for their gift in the revitalized living room, which will serve as a student lounge area.
  • Cathy Lacy, MPA’86, and her husband, Steve: They will be recognized for their gift in the large student meeting space on the second floor.
  • John August, JO’92, will be recognized for his gift in the student workspace on the second floor. 

Student-focused spaces

In addition to housing the Sammons Intercultural Center, the ground floor will be home to a large flex space and collaboration space in what was originally a ballroom. The first and second floors will house Residence Life offices and study spaces. The second floor will also hold lounges, a Capstone locker area, workspaces, and offices—including those for the director of student life, a coordinator for fraternity and sorority life, Adams Leadership Institute, Student Activities Board, and Student Senate.

A historical photo of the Morehouse Hall ballroom.

A rendering shows what the revitalized ballroom is expected to look like what when the project is complete.

“When I think about how much this new project will mean, it is hard to put into words,” said Ruwayda Egal, Drake student body president. “It shows the University investing in its student organizations and all the work we do. I know generations after me will benefit immensely from this new space.”

A home for community engagement organizations

The third floor will have a boardroom space and become the new home to the Kinne Development Center, named after the late beloved Frances Kinne, FA’40, GR’44, who served as a Drake University trustee from 1979 to 2009 and whose $2 million bequest will have a lasting impact on campus for years to come.

Dedicated spaces for The Ron and Jane Olson Institute for Public Democracy and the Jay N. Darling Institute will also be housed in the building.

A rich history

Originally an all-women dorm that opened in 1931, the residence hall was named after Dr. Morehouse, the sixth president of Drake. The building was designed in Georgian style and constructed with brick and Bedford stone. The renovation plans will honor the building’s original architecture while prioritizing modern updates and amenities.

Learn more about The Ones: Drake’s Campaign for the Brave and Bold, including the key priority of enhancing student experience.