Two beloved former faculty members at Carroll College -- John Downs and Al Murray -- will be honored Thursday at a ceremonial groundbreaking for two new campus apartment residence halls.
The event starts at 4:15 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 3, at the north side of St. Matthew Apartments on Learning Street on campus. The groundbreaking is at 4:30 p.m.
Already under construction, the residence halls are being built thanks to a $5 million gift from an anonymous donor.
It’s the largest donation the college has ever received, said Carroll President Tom Evans.
The halls will be named St. John and St. Al in honor of the patron saints of the professors: St. John Vianney, a French parish priest who was known for his passion in caring for others -- drawing as many as 20,000 pilgrims a year -- and St. Alfred the Great, a ninth-century Christian monarch “known for his fierce commitment to learning,” said Evans.
Family members of both professors will be at the ceremony, said Evans. He will speak about both men and share some words from the donor.
Downs was a Carroll alumnus who later joined the faculty for 33 years as a psychology professor, counselor and football coach, ”and was an incredible friend to virtually everyone in this community,” said Evans.
He died in 2002 at age 60, and is the father of Montana First Lady Lisa Bullock.
“We celebrate Downsey Day April 15, which was his birthday," said Evans. "It’s a day we are all to do some random act of kindness because that’s the kind of person he was.”
The donor wanted to name the apartments after the patron saints of the two faculty members who had the most impact on his life, said Evans.
He never took a class from Downs, “but that gives you an idea of what John Downs meant to this community and what he meant to the students here.”
But the donor did take classes from Murray, who taught math and engineering at Carroll for over 30 years, and remembers him as someone who could work magic with a piece of chalk -- making math come alive.
Although the donor remembers himself as the worst student in the class, Murray encouraged him to keep at it. “He had an amazing way of caring about the outcomes of all of his students.”
Murray died in 1992 at age 66.
“The donor really believes these two men shaped his life,” said Evans. “This is an incredibly meaningful and thoughtful gift. He wants the memory of these two men to continue to motivate all of us.”
Instead of gifting money for an endowment, the donor is building these two apartment buildings for upperclassmen, and the income generated will go to fund student scholarships.
“I think this is a really innovative display of philanthropy,” Evans said.
“The gift will be particularly impactful, by enhancing the beauty of the campus and the living quarters of students.”
“It’s very thoughtful and quite ingenious,” Evans said of the gift, noting it shows the donor really understands the Carroll campus.
Construction is well underway, said Evans, with completion expected by August.
Two more apartment buildings are also planned for the site -- with six buildings in a row.
“We are very committed to getting more students on campus,” he said. “The students do better when they are on campus, and they’re so convenient.” The apartments are close to classes, the library, the Great Northern Town Center and downtown.
The current Carroll enrollment is 1,422. About 66.2 percent of the students live on campus, growing from 57.8 percent in 2011.
There has been great interest in renting the current campus apartments, according to the college housing office, with 135 people applying for 55 spaces.