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Marymount's Miracle on 26th Street: A Dream Fulfilled

By Denise Alexander and Shelley Dutton
At Marymount University, dreaming big is a tradition.

Sixty years ago, Marymount’s founders, the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary, dreamed of a Catholic institution of higher learning in northern Virginia – a college that would offer young women a solid liberal arts education plus vocational skills to help them achieve success in a rapidly changing world. Through hard work and unwavering faith, they made that dream a reality.

Since those early days, Marymount University’s leaders have never stopped dreaming. In six short decades, the institution has grown from a two-year women’s college to a comprehensive, coeducational university. With cutting-edge academic programs, strong enrollments, and a beautiful new academic and residential complex, Marymount continues to be an institution on the move as it enters the second decade of the 21st century.

Members of the campus community sometimes refer to the University’s newest buildings as the “Miracle on 26th Street.” The nickname originated as the headline of an article in MU’s student newspaper, The Banner, written when the new facilities were nothing more than architectural drawings. Even then, Marymount’s students recognized that this construction project was the embodiment of a big dream – something so transformational, and in some ways so unexpected, that it could legitimately be called a miracle.

President James E. Bundschuh says, “I like to think of miracles as people’s dreams fulfilled. If you accept that definition, these new facilities do, indeed, represent a miracle for us.”

For more than a decade, the Marymount community had struggled with outdated science andhealth science labs, insufficient student housing, and a severe parking shortage. A Campus Master Plan commissioned in 2004 proposed three separate projects to address these needs – an academic building, a residence hall, and a parking garage – in various locations. It quickly became clear that it would be too disruptive to have multiple construction projects underway simultaneously on a small campus. But phasing the projects was also an unsatisfactory solution, for some urgent needs would have to wait while others were addressed.

Dr. Bundschuh explains,“That’s when the first part of the miracle happened. In a ‘Eureka!’ moment, one of our architects sketched something on a scrap of paper during a meeting. His concept was a multipurpose development – two complementary buildings nestled together and constructed over an underground garage. Amazingly, he showed how this vision could be accomplished on the one under-used piece of land on our campus – a surface parking lot on 26th Street. I think it’s fair to say that we were a little skeptical at first; it was hard to believe that we could get all of our most critical needs addressed in one project. But it soon became clear that this really could work.”

Dr. Bundschuh continues, “That was just the first part of our miracle. The success of our capital campaign has also been a great blessing. People have gotten behind this effort with tremendous enthusiasm and generosity. To date, the campaign has generated five of the largest gifts in Marymount’s history. The vision and generosity of our donors is what really made this ‘Miracle on 26th Street’ possible.”

Every step of the way, from the inspired architectural design to the intricate zoning and permit process, from the fund raising to the construction and eventual ribboncutting, everyone involved with the 26th Street buildings knew that this initiative was, indeed, something big. President Bundschuh says, “It was understood that these new facilities would go a long way to shaping Marymount’s future.”

Now, as Marymount University concludes its 60th anniversary year, the “Miracle on 26th Street” is open and bustling with students, faculty, and staff. And the new facilities stand as a striking symbol of Marymount ’s ongoing commitment to dreaming big.
The following shows what can be accomplished when a dream is pursued with energy and  commitment. Marymount University thanks all those who helped to make this particular  dream come true.
Caruthers Hall
Five health science teaching labs
Nine science teaching labs
Five science research labs
Classrooms and study areas
Faculty offices
Lola’s Café
BB&T Clock Tower
Rose Benté Lee Ostapenko Hall
Apartment housing for 239 students
An apartment and office space for the Resident Director
Efficiency-style apartments for Resident Assistants
Laundry facilities on every floor
Student lounges
Fitness center
Parking for residents in underground garage

James E. Bundschuh, president
Marymount’s mission is to prepare students intellectually and morally for successful lives. Our new academic building and residence hall are more than just bricks and mortar; they are resources that will enable us to achieve this mission in bigger and better ways.

Sherri Lind Hughes, provost and vice president for academic affairs
Student engagement is the hallmark of academic excellence. Our new academic building features spaces designed to promote collaborative learning and research. It is outfitted with the latest high-tech teaching and learning tools. How could all of this not engage and excite students? I think that we are going to see increased interest in the sciences and the health sciences at Marymount, thanks to these fantastic new facilities.

Sister Brigid Driscoll, RSHM, trustee
In this, its 60th anniversary year, Marymount University has much to celebrate! The Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary are proud to have given Marymount its start, and our affiliation with this institution continues to give us great joy and satisfaction. It does our hearts good to see all that Marymount has become, and especially to see the completion of these wonderful new buildings. We are confident that even greater accomplishments lie ahead for Marymount University.

Chris Domes, vice president for student development and enrollment management
For me, the most emotional moment during this whole journey was when the new residence hall opened at 5 p.m. on October 2. I had the privilege of leading the students over the pedestrian bridge and into their new home. They were so excited, and I felt a sense of great joy and accomplishment. It took vision, commitment, and hard work to make these buildings a reality, but it was definitely worth the effort.

Barry J. Fitzpatrick, chairman, Board of Trustees
The completion of the “Miracle on 26th Street” was like Christmas for the Marymount community. It’s that feeling you had as a child when you woke up on Christmas morning and realized, “It’s here!” All the anticipation of the weeks before led up to that glorious moment.

At Marymount, the anticipation has been steadily growing through six years of planning, construction, and hard work. Now the buildings are done, and we have an opportunity to stand back and admire them in all their glory, and contemplate the difference that they are going to make in the lives of our students and the life of this University.

Marlene Malek, trustee, naming donor of the Malek Plaza
We envision the Malek Plaza as a place for students to meet and mingle, and for students and faculty to stop and chat informally. We hope that it will help to further develop the sense of community that makes Marymount so special.

Jason Craig, chair, Faculty Council
The Book of Proverbs says “Without vision, the people will perish.” Marymount’s leadership certainly had vision and turned it into reality! Now it is the faculty’s responsibility to build on the vision that created these buildings, and use these resources to inspire a new generation of students, a new generation of faculty. These facilities are the springboard that will launch us forward into the next 60 years!

Rose Benté Lee, trustee, naming donor of Lee Ostapenko Hall
I have been associated with Marymount ever since I became friends with Sister Majella Berg, more than 30 years ago. Sister Majella used to come into my business, the House of Fine Fabrics, to buy material for her habits, which she sewed herself. She told me about Marymount and said that I just had to join the Board of Trustees. I was happy to be involved with a school that was doing great things and growing so rapidly. Today, Marymount is like a second home to me, and I am proud to have helped this University grow and flourish.

Nicholas Carosi, trustee
It’s amazing what has been built on a napkin-sized piece of land! There’s barely a rectangular wall in either building. My company, Arban & Carosi, specially designed 50 molds for the precast concrete forms that make up the buildings’ faces. Normally, there are seven molds for a project of this size. It was challenging, but everyone involved knew that this was a special project. I’m so proud to have been a part of this from every angle!

Sister Irene Cody, RSHM, former staff member
The Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary view these new facilities as a bridge between what was, what is, and what will be, leading to high hopes for Marymount’s future. Our community is especially gratified to see that a trefoil cross crowns Caruthers Hall. This cross is the traditional symbol of the RSHM, and it serves as a reminder of Marymount’s Catholic identity and RSHM heritage.

Rose Benté Lee, trustee, naming donor of Lee Ostapenko Hall
When we went through Lee Ostapenko Hall on the day of the ribbon-cutting, I couldn’t believe how beautiful it was! And the students were so appreciative. Seeing their excitement and happiness made me even more proud of what we have accomplished at Marymount.

Theresa Cappello, dean, School of Health Professions
Caruthers Hall offers our faculty and students an opportunity to achieve a new level of excellence. For our health sciences majors, the kinesiology lab provides fitness testing that was never available before. For our nursing students, the health-assessment lab and the simulation lab that mirrors an acute-care setting will be invaluable resources. These new facilities will increase Marymount’s ability to recruit outstanding students and faculty, provide meaningful research opportunities, and build upon its reputation for academic excellence.

Ernest Ulibarri, architect, Davis Carter Scott
The challenge for our firm was to create a village-like environment on a small piece of land. The design makes the space feel like a European village – a comfortable setting where people can work, learn, collaborate, socialize, and relax.

Personally, I think that the clock tower is the most striking design element, because clock towers define important spots. In the future, I can envision people pointing to the BB&T Clock Tower on the “Marymount corner” as an Arlington landmark.

For Davis Carter Scott, this project is one of our great successes. We already point to it with pride!

Preston Caruthers, naming donor of Caruthers Hall
I have long observed that the students who attend Marymount are wonderful young people. They are bright, compassionate, and ethical. They have big dreams for the future. The new science and health science building will benefit these terrific young people for years to come. It will also benefit the wider community; by giving Marymount students every educational advantage, we help ensure that they will go forth from the University well prepared to serve others and make a positive difference in the world.

Ralph Kidder, vice president for financial affairs
How do I feel about the new buildings? Three words – thrilled, relieved, and proud! I’m thrilled for Marymount because this is a transformational initiative for the University. I’m relieved that the project has been successfully completed, and that we brought it in on budget and on time. And I’m proud to be part of an amazing group of people who went above and beyond. Being part of this team has been one of the highlights of my career!

Preston Caruthers, naming donor of Caruthers Hall
My association with Marymount goes back to the days of Sister Majella Berg. As a Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges (VFIC) trustee, I co-sponsored with Milton Drewer Marymount’s membership in that organization. I also assisted the University in acquiring its Ballston Center.

I have watched this institution grow into a wonderful asset for the Arlington community and the DC region as a whole. I admire the work that Jim Bundschuh and the Board of Trustees have done, and I’m honored to be a part of Marymount University’s future.

Katy Barker, co-president, Student Government Association
The new residence hall is exciting because it allows students to get a taste of the “real world.” As Marymount’s first apartment-style dorm, this building offers its residents exciting opportunities for independence and responsibility. And the new academic building is going to stimulate learning and research. I really believe that these facilities will transform the living-and-learning experience for Marymount’s students.

Maria Coakley David, trustee
The Coakley Family and all the employees of C. J. Coakley Co., Inc. are very pleased and proud to have been a part of this historic leap forward for Marymount University. This state-of-the-art project brings with it far-reaching enhancements to the Marymount community, as well as the Arlington community at large.

Robert W. Truland, chair, Board of Trustees Campus Facilities Committee
In his groundbreaking book Built to Last, Jim Collins coined the term BHAG, which stands for Big Hairy Audacious Goal; he offers as an example Boeing’s “bet the store” gamble to develop the 747.

26th Street was Marymount’s BHAG: bold and unprecedented in its scope but, if successful, a game-changer for the future of the University. Such undertakings require the clear and courageous vision of a leader who, if you are lucky as we have been with Dr. Bundschuh, has the energy and persistence to pursue every detail and the charisma to motivate a team to excel. He has raised the bar of leadership at Marymount to a new level. We should all be very grateful.

Bhavna Mistry Lee, Stranix Associates
For the past two years, John Stranix and I have had the privilege of working on this project as Marymount’s owner’s representatives. We’ve worked closely with the architects, the contractors and subcontractors, and the internal team to help make this magnificent project a reality. The transformation from an asphalt parking lot to what we see now has been amazing, and we’re proud to have been a part of bringing this dream to life.

Project Parners
Davis Carter Scott

James G. Davis Construction Corporation
general contractor

Stranix Associates
owner’s representative
Branch Banking and Trust Company (BB&T)
financing partner