JOLIET – The Board of Trustees of the University of St. Francis unanimously voted Friday to name the university’s new science building in honor of LaVerne and Dorothy Brown of Joliet.
USF President Arvid C. Johnson announced the Browns – affectionately known as Bitz and Dottie – were making the gift to support the university’s strategic objectives, including the new science building. Johnson declined to specify the amount, noting the Browns are humble, but said it was a “significant” gift.
“The board just really viewed this as not just an incredible opportunity for USF, but an incredible endorsement of our plans for the future by someone who is the very essence of what Joliet is about, Dottie Brown and her late husband, Bitz,” Johnson said. “They are known for their generosity. They are passionate about education.”
Construction of the three story, 36,000-square-foot facility at the corner of Wilcox and Douglas streets is scheduled to begin in May, according Johnson, with a targeted opening date in fall 2017.
The LaVerne & Dorothy Brown Science Hall will be the first new construction on the Joliet campus in more than 30 years, according to a USF news release, and will include teaching laboratories, student/faculty research laboratories, faculty offices, student study lounges, and a multipurpose lecture hall. The building will enable USF to offer majors in biochemestry and chemistry.
When Dottie was asked to consider a gift to the science building campaign, she told USF she would pray about it, and consider how LaVerne, who died in 2013, would respond. When she notified USF of her decision, she emphasized the gift was from the couple.
“We have been blessed and realize it is our responsibility to share our blessings with others,” she said in the news release.
The Browns have been part of the USF community for more than a generation, Johnson said. LaVerne served on the USF Board of Trustees from 1974 to 2010. Among their many contributions were assuming leadership roles in the Caritas Scholarship Ball through the years – including being four-time co-chairs of the event – and committing to the LaVerne S. & Dorothy M. Brown Endowed Scholarship, which annually is awarded to two students who demonstrate dedication and service to others.
In 2011 the university honored the Browns by naming the library in recognition of their lifetime support. The Browns also have supported Joliet Catholic Academy, Providence High School and Lewis University.
This is at least the second significant gift for the new science building: in October, USF announced that alumni William and Patricia Bellah made a seven-figure donation for the building.
“This builds the momentum from Bill and Trish Bellah’s gift,” Johnson said. “It prefaces good things for the future and we are really excited about it.”