Elon celebrates groundbreaking for LaRose Student Commons

The ceremony Wednesday offered a look ahead at the new student gathering space now being built within the Historic Neighborhood thanks to the generosity of Gail H. LaRose '64 and her daughter, Elon trustee Michelle LaRose. 

Elon University on Wednesday celebrated the official start of construction of LaRose Commons, a new 10,000-square-foot, two-story building that will provide gathering and study space to students in the Historic Neighborhood.

President Connie Ledoux Book speaks during the ceremonial groundbreaking for LaRose Student Commons.

The ceremonial groundbreaking offered the chance to recognize the generosity of Elon alumna Gail H. LaRose ’64 and her daughter, trustee Michelle LaRose, whose $2.5 million gift to name the new space made the project possible. The LaRoses were joined by hundreds of students living in the Historic Neighborhood who gathered by the LaRose Student Commons site for an annual cookout to mark the start of the year.

“It will be a place for people to come together,” said President Connie Ledoux Book. “It signals the importance of relationships here at Elon.”

Earthwork has already begun on the LaRose Commons site, which is adjacent to Long Building and south of Mooney Building within a short walk of the Historic Neighborhood residence halls. Once complete next year, LaRose Commons will provide a place for students to socialize, study, listen to speakers and host small dinners and other residence hall programs.

The building will include:

  • 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.
  • 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.

Vice President of Student Life Jon Dooley noted that the new building will add to the strong sense of community and the relationships that Elon is known for. The Historic Neighborhood is steeped in tradition, but has been lacking a central gathering point and common area for students, faculty and staff to interact, he said.

The groundbreaking was paired with a community picnic for those in the Historic Neighborhood.

“You can almost envision the types of things that will happen in this facility,” Dooley said. “This facility will help foster the types of relationships that Elon is known for.”

During the past five decades, the LaRose family has been one of Elon’s most devoted and generous families with a tradition of “inspired philanthropy,” Vice President of University Advancement Jim Piatt told the crowd.

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.

In his remarks, Piatt noted that the relationship between Elon and the LaRoses dates back more than five decades, with the couple having first fallen in love on Elon’s campus.

Bob LaRose ’66 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. He passed away in 2010. Gail LaRose 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 is an attorney in Annapolis, Maryland, and she 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.

On Wednesday, Gail, Michelle and Scott LaRose joined President Book to turn shovels full of dirt to celebrate the extensive construction work that will follow.

“It’s really especially meaningful for us to be able to donate the building that is going to stand right here where my parents met in college, and we would like to honor my dad’s memory by putting this building in this spot,” Michelle LaRose told the crowd.