$5 Million Gift Names Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation Residential Complex

Posted: October 19, 2012 at 11:57 am, Last Updated: November 2, 2012 at 4:18 pm

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By Tara Laskowski

Real estate developer Gerald “Jerry” T. Halpin was honored for his generous donation to the Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation. He’s shown above at the grand opening celebration for the residential complex. Creative Services photo

The Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation (SMSC), housed on the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute complex in Front Royal, Va., celebrated completion of its new academic, residential and dining facilities in October with an announcement of a $5 million gift that will name the residence hall and dining complex as the G.T. Halpin Family Living and Learning Community.

Real estate developer Gerald “Jerry” T. Halpin will provide the funds to the university over the next five years. The gift will establish an endowment for the SMSC, providing scholarships for undergraduate and graduate students and professionals, support for curriculum and program development and faculty research.

“We seek to attract the very best students to this program, and these students require scholarship support to ease their financial burden and be able to concentrate in an immersive living-learning environment,” says Alonso Aguirre, executive director of the SMSC. “The gift so generously provided by the Halpin family will have a life-changing impact among this new generation of conservation leaders and practitioners.”

The SMSC engages undergraduates, graduate students and professionals from around the world in a range of compelling, transdisciplinary programs in conservation biology. The participants thrive in an atmosphere of creative, critical and analytic thinking on how to search solutions to some of the most intractable conservation problems facing society today.

From left, Mason President Ángel Cabrera, Smithsonian benefactor Adrienne Mars, Halpin and Smithsonian Institution Secretary Wayne Clough at the opening celebration. Creative Services photo

Each of the students spends a semester living on the Front Royal campus studying endangered species and ecosystems. Highly qualified world experts — including Smithsonian scientists, Mason faculty and colleagues from other U.S. and international conservation organizations — provide students with direct connections to the most current teaching, research techniques and work in the field. Students thrive in a collaborative atmosphere of creative, analytical thinking.

The new residential complex is a LEED Gold-certified Standard building. Some of its features include green-roof technology, geothermal heating and cooling, composting kitchen waste, reuse of rainwater, and storm-water management. The facility will house 120 students.

Halpin is the founder and former president and CEO of WEST*GROUP Management LLC. He, along with his partners, are credited with creating the West*Gate and West*Park areas of Tysons Corner, Va.,  and with developing more than 14 million square feet of office, retail, residential, resort and industrial space in Northern Virginia and Maryland. Halpin also volunteered as a previous member of the George Mason University Foundation Board of Trustees.

“West*Group and the Halpin Family have been a part of Northern Virginia and Fairfax County for more than 60 years, and we have always been mindful of our obligation to give back to our Northern Virginia community,” says Halpin. “George Mason has been such an important part of the continued success of Fairfax County and of the well-being and education of its citizens that we are pleased to make this gift. The conservation work that the university is doing in Front Royal, in association with the Smithsonian, is ultimately of terrific importance for us as citizens of a great metropolitan area, and as inhabitants of this planet.”

Write to Robin Herron at rherron@gmu.edu

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