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Dick Saunders Gives $1.5 Million in Support of the Community Commons at the University of Denver

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University of Denver

Announcement  •
Dick Saunders

The University of Denver today announced a $1.5 million gift from Dick Saunders (BS ‘63) in support of the new Community Commons at the heart of campus. Currently under construction on the footprint of the Driscoll Student Center north of Evans Avenue, the Community Commons will house spaces for classes, socializing, programming, studying and collaborative opportunities, as well as a central dining hall. The University will name the Richard C. Saunders Canyon, the first-floor main artery that runs through the entire building and serves as a connecting space for the DU community, in recognition of Saunders’ generosity.

“The University of Denver is deeply grateful for Mr. Saunders’ gift, and we are incredibly proud this new, innovative space will feature and honor him as an alumnus and lifelong friend of DU,” said Jeremy Haefner, chancellor of the University. “The Community Commons will provide a beautiful and functional space for students and the rest of the DU community to gather, share a meal, and access vital resources right in the heart of campus.”

A 1963 graduate of what is now the Burns School of Real Estate and Construction Management in the Daniels College of Business, Saunders has made an indelible mark on the city of Denver through Saunders Construction, which he founded and led for decades. Saunders Construction is building the Community Commons, and the opportunity to name a space at his alma mater in a building constructed by his company holds great meaning for Saunders.

“Knowing that my family will be able to see their father’s — and grandfather’s — name in the building, and the fact that it will create a space for students to find community are very gratifying for me,” said Saunders. “Two of my granddaughters have gone here, and it has been a delight to see them thrive at DU. The space also reminds me of my earliest days as a DU student, driving through the canyons that lead to Estes Park for new student programs.”

Slated to open in 2021, the Community Commons will be a bright and modern space in the heart of campus — a place to gather, to collaborate, to enjoy a meal and to engage with multiple student services. Within the Community Commons, students will connect with mentorship opportunities and co-curricular activities, building skills for lifelong learning and successful careers. Research shows that student learning is significantly impacted by those with whom they interact outside the classroom, and this new building in the center of DU will provide a crossroads that fosters connection and learning. It will also provide expanded dining options for the DU community as well as opportunities to enjoy rooftop entertainment with a view of the Rocky Mountains.

“The generosity of Mr. Saunders will be integral in our students’ lives for many years to come,” said Valerie Otten, senior vice chancellor for advancement. “The DU campus has long needed a central space for connection, and the Richard C. Saunders Canyon will engender that connection in ways that will help to transform the DU experience for our students and community.”

The programs and spaces of the Community Commons will advance the realization of the DU IMPACT 2025 vision as it promotes a sense of belonging and connection for everyone in the DU community. Collaborations across disciplines, divisions and departments will foster creativity and innovation, and students will be enriched with the support and resources needed for successful navigation of their collegiate experience.