Student Center named after celebrated UK philanthropist Bill Gatton

Bill Gatton chats with those in attendance at his celebration in the new Student Center on Monday, April 30, 2018 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Jordan Prather | Staff

Jacob Eads

The UK community met Monday morning to celebrate their “bridge builder” at the unveiling of the new Bill Gatton Student Center.

President Eli Capilouto and the Board of Trustees are set to hold their final vote tomorrow to officially name the long-awaited Student Center, paying homage to notable philanthropist and UK alumnus Carol Martin Bill Gatton.

“There was no bigger advocate and supporter of our audacious dreams than Mr. Carol Martin Bill Gatton,” Capilouto said.

The 378,000 square-foot concrete and metal hub in the middle of campus tallied up a bill surmounting $200 million.

In 2014, Gatton gifted $20 million to UK to jumpstart the construction process on a shiny new student center. The remainder of the building costs were funded by bonds UK will pay back, private fundraising and a portion of student fees.

Gatton’s total philanthropic contributions to UK have well eclipsed $55 million, according to Capilouto.

Referencing Gatton’s favorite poem, “The Bridge Builder” by Will Allen Dromgoole, Chair of the Board of Trustees E. Britt Brockman said that Gatton’s contribution would be a stepping stone for generations of students to follow.

“He has been, and continues to be a bridge builder – bridges of hope, bridges of progress and bridges of promise,” Brockman said.

UK’s new “crown jewel” is sure to be a spectacle for the nearly 10,000 visitors that UK sees yearly.

The almost menacing structure features a massive two-story bookstore at its core that encompasses a new 70-seat Starbucks, UK-branded Nike store, a miniature convenience store and the campus’s only escalators.

Visitors are kindly greeted all around by the infamous UK logo carved in stone, etched on walls, projected on the floors and even stamped on waffles in the Champions Kitchen Dining Hall.

The Student Center has already accommodated loads of student traffic in the week between its soft opening and today’s dedication ceremony.

“There’s so much cool stuff that I think students are psyched about,” said Student Government Association President Ben Childress. “Students can be excited about whatever they want. What I’m most excited about is that this is finally a central place for students to get together, hang out, work on projects and do stuff like that.”

Students, faculty and community members alike lined the popular new social staircase, that’s emblazoned with the words of the UK fight song, to both listen to the administrators’ addresses and admire their well-headed handiwork. 

“Explore what you can at the new student center, and especially for people who are graduating soon. It’s going to be really cool in here,” said UK senior and theatre major Faith Murphy.