LaRose family gift funds Historic Neighborhood commons building

Elon alumna Gail H. LaRose ’64 and her daughter Michelle LaRose, an Elon trustee, have made a $2.5 million gift to name a new student gathering space planned for the historic part of campus.

Elon alumna Gail H. LaRose ’64 and her daughter Michelle LaRose, an Elon trustee, have made a $2.5 million gift to name a new student gathering space planned for the historic part of campus.

The LaRose Student Commons will provide much-needed gathering and study space for students living in the Historic Neighborhood, which includes West, Sloan, Virginia, Smith, Carolina, and Hook, Brannock and Barney residence halls.

President Leo M. Lambert announced the gift at a Board of Trustees luncheon Oct. 21 that was held on the future site of the LaRose Student Commons in the Historic Neighborhood. Gail and Michelle LaRose were joined by trustees, as well as recipients of the 2016 alumni awards and members of the Class of 1966, who are celebrating their 50th reunion during Homecoming weekend.

Lambert thanked Gail and Michelle LaRose for their generous and longstanding support of Elon and its students. He also recognized the many contributions of Gail’s husband, the late Robert E. LaRose ’66, a successful business leader and committed philanthropist who played a pivotal role in Elon’s development during 21 years of service on the Board of Trustees.

“It is appropriate for us to be on this spot today,” Lambert said. “Gail was an education major and this location is close to the Mooney Building, which is home to our School of Education. This is also the historic campus and the exact spot where Bob and Gail strolled through Elon many times when they were students here.”

Invoking her father’s memory, Michelle LaRose said her family was honored to make this gift to Elon.

“We know in our hearts that my dad is with us in spirit,” she said. “Elon has been a tremendously important place in the history of our family. My mom often shares that her life truly began when she stepped foot on this campus as a freshman in 1960. It’s truly an honor for us to build on my dad’s legacy of philanthropic leadership here at Elon and to contribute to the growth and success story of this amazing university.”

Gail LaRose remembered her husband, Bob, and said he made the LaRose Student Commons possible, saying, “I truly love this place.”

Gail said she was excited and proud to be part of enhancing the Historic Neighborhood, which was her home away from home.

“I felt this gift was the right thing for us to do and is something I feel very good about doing,” LaRose said. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to have the LaRose name on the historic campus. I have four wonderful grandchildren, and I hope one day one of them will make use of this terrific building.”

LaRose fondly remembers her years in the Historic Neighborhood, including living on the third floor of West Hall her freshman year.

“My experience in West was special because we were all new students and excited about college life,” she said. “I was an only child and the first person in my family to attend college, so my experience in West and the Historic Neighborhood was extra special. I made friends in West that I’m still friends with today.

“My hopes are that this building will be a place where students will come to meet and socialize and that living in the Historic Neighborhood will be a wonderful experience for students for years to come as it was for me and my friends.”

A committed Elon family

During the past five decades, the LaRose family has been one of Elon’s most devoted and generous families. The impact of gifts from Bob, Gail, Michelle and the couple’s son, Scott, can be felt across Elon’s campus, from the LaRose Resources Center to the LaRose Digital Theatre in the Ernest A. Koury, Sr. Business Center and the Gail H. LaRose Odyssey Scholarship, which enables talented students with significant financial need to attend Elon and pursue studies in education.

Bob LaRose served as chair of the Board of Trustees, was named Distinguished Alumnus of the Year and was elected Elon’s first Life Trustee in 2006. Gail LaRose, of Centreville, Va., was named Distinguished Alumna of the Year in 2014 in recognition of her successful career in education and her many years of loyal service to her alma mater, including as a member of Elon’s alumni board.

Michelle LaRose, an attorney from Annapolis, Md., carries on her parents’ legacy for leadership, having served on the Board of Trustees since 2012. Her recent service on Elon’s Campaign Planning Committee provided university leaders with valuable guidance in formulating the key priorities of Elon’s next comprehensive campaign, which will be the largest in the university’s history.

Like many graduates from her era, Gail LaRose has seen her alma mater grow and develop during the past 50 years. Watching this transformation makes her proud.

“Elon was the perfect fit for me, and I feel so fortunate that I’ve been able to remain part of the wonderful university Elon is today,” LaRose said. “Bob was the most generous person in the world, and his work is allowing us to be able to do this, and I am grateful every single day. The four years I spent at Elon were among the best years of my life.”

The LaRose Student Commons

The two-story, 10,000-square-foot LaRose Student Commons will be located adjacent to Long Building and to the south of Mooney Building, a short walk from the residence halls in the Historic Neighborhood. It will integrate living and learning in meaningful ways by providing students a welcoming place to socialize, study, enjoy engaging speakers, and host small dinners and other residence hall programs.

LaRose Student Commons building planned for the Elon University Historic Neighborhood.
The LaRose Student Commons is an important component of Elon’s residential campus initiative, which is part of the Elon Commitment strategic plan. Elon has made significant investments in living and learning communities, faculty and staff engagement, and facilities that bring students and faculty together to create a seamless living and learning environment. This is important because students who live on campus have higher GPAs and retention rates, are more involved in the life of the campus and form deeper relationships with faculty and peers. The Historic Neighborhood is the home of many first-year students, making the LaRose Student Commons vital to enhancing the student experience and advancing Elon’s already-high undergraduate retention rates.

The Historic Neighborhood spans many generations of Elon alumni and is the only neighborhood without a gathering space for students in residence. The LaRose Student Commons, currently in the planning stage, will include the following:

  • A 1,200-square-foot activity room on the first floor with comfortable seating that could host a variety of gatherings, including neighborhood meetings led by Residence Life staff.
  • A fireplace and study nooks ideal for students to work on group projects or gather for late-night conversations.
  • A 3,000-square-foot event space on the second floor that could host student group meetings and events, guest lectures featuring Elon faculty scholars, career services seminars, and discussions following major campus speakers.
  • Office space for the Historic Neighborhood faculty director and Residence Life staff.

A construction timetable for the project has not yet been determined.