American University received a $5 million gift from alumnus and trustee Gary M. Abramson (School of Public Affairs/BA ’68) and his wife, Pennie. The gift, a philanthropic investment in the Hall of Science, will strengthen AU’s capacity to engage in scientific inquiry.
“We are proud to be a part of making the Hall of Science a reality,” said Pennie and Gary Abramson, who is a partner in the Rockville-based real-estate firm The Tower Companies. “In an ever-changing world, science is essential to how society approaches its greatest opportunities and challenges. AU students and faculty deserve a space that matches their ambition and affords them every opportunity to advance scientific discovery.”
“The Abramson family has played a critical role in the advancement of American University,” said Sylvia Burwell, president of AU. “Their vision and generosity have ensured our success at many pivotal moments over the last decades.”
The Abramsons’ philanthropic support for AU extends broadly across campus initiatives, schools and building funds. In the last two decades, their gifts have contributed to creating integral gathering spaces at the School of Communication’s McKinley Building, the School of International Service and the Katzen Arts Center, which houses AU’s Department of Performing Arts and the American University Museum.
To honor the Abramsons’ generosity and in the tradition of creating spaces to foster discovery through community, the Hall of Science auditorium will be named the ‘Pennie and Gary Abramson Discovery Hall.’ The space will serve as the essential gathering spot on the building’s first floor. It will be the site for symposia, workshops, lectures and special events.
Fundraising for the Hall of Science is continuing and groundbreaking on the project has begun. Science is the fastest-growing area of undergraduate study at AU. College of Arts and Sciences faculty have grown their research funding by 116 percent, securing 48 unique awards from the National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation, over the past five years.
Scientists must work across disciplines to solve today’s scientific challenges. The building’s design will invite students and faculty from different areas of science, as well as from fields of study such as policy, to collaborate. The building will enhance the student experience at AU and position AU to launch new academic programs in the sciences.
“Solutions to problems like climate change, cancer, obesity and dementia demand great effort from scientists and policy-makers alike,” said Peter Starr, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at AU. “The new Hall of Science will empower our outstanding AU scientists in remarkable ways. “
The three-story Hall of Science will have an expansive 95,000 gross square foot floor area. The departments of biology, environmental science, chemistry and neuroscience will be housed in the new building to encourage interdisciplinary interaction and spur partnerships.
Gary and Pennie Abramson have been longtime philanthropists to many education, human services and healthcare research organizations in Maryland, Washington D.C., and around the world.
Gary Abramson is a current trustee and chairman emeritus of the AU Board of Trustees, having served on the board since 1986. He is a member of the Center for Israel Studies Council and the Carmel Institute of Russian Culture and History Advisory Committee. To mark his 50th reunion, he is the honorary chair of the Golden Eagles celebration this fall. A recipient of the AU President’s Award in 2003, he also received an honorary doctorate from the School of Communication in 2015.