You are here: American University President Announcements December 2, 2020

AU Memo Letterhead

Dear AU Community,

Building community through shared opportunities is a hallmark of American University, and we are fortunate to have many supporters who are dedicated to enhancing student experiences now and into the future. Part of our ongoing strategy is to create more gathering spaces so our students can come together and find new ways to connect, learn, and succeed. Even in these difficult times, we are bolstered by caring community members who are committed to this vision and the well-being of our students. Today, I want to celebrate and thank some incredible people who are supporting our community and student wellness through generous gifts.

I am pleased to announce a $3 million gift from the Bender Foundation, Inc., which will support the development of the Center for Athletic Performance (CAP), and gifts totaling $1.5 million from AU Board of Trustees member Stephanie M. Bennett-Smith, which will support and rename the AU Athletics’ Eagles Leadership Academy. These contributions further our work to provide a student-centered, holistic experience both inside and outside the classroom. We are focused on sustaining and growing our dynamic campus environment that provides AU students with opportunities, support, and connections.

The CAP will elevate recreation, fitness, competitive opportunities, and wellness for all AU students, as an integral part of student thriving. With 58,000 square feet of new practice and training facilities, the state-of-the-art building will strengthen AU’s competitive edge in the Patriot League, aid recruitment efforts, and establish a new hub on our campus for inspiring new levels of school spirit. The CAP will expand overall health and wellness resources available for the entire AU community by providing new places for students to gather, repurposing existing facilities in Bender Arena, and offering new opportunities for club and recreational sports. While still in the planning stages, the CAP stands alongside other key university priorities in the coming years that will enhance the student experience and position us for success in the post-COVID-19 world.

The Bender Foundation, Inc. gift adds to commitments from Board of Trustees member Jack Cassell, and his wife, Denise, and fellow board member Alan L. Meltzer and his wife, Amy, which launched the CAP into its planning phase last year. The Bender family and the foundation have a long tradition of generosity and support for generations of Eagles. The Jack I. and Dorothy G. Bender Library and Learning Resources Center officially opened in January 1979 and plays a vital role in connecting students, faculty, and scholars with information, ideas, and each other. In January 1988, the Bender Arena opened its doors and quickly became the heart of the student experience, hosting milestone events such as convocation, commencement, and numerous Patriot League championships.

The newly named Stephanie M. Bennett-Smith AU Eagles Life Skills and Leadership Academy helps ensure that student-athletes are prepared for life after college. Established in 2018 as the AU Eagles Leadership Academy and operating as part of the Student-Athlete Support Program and the Office of Undergraduate Education and Academic Student Services, the academy allows student-athletes to expand leadership skills, confront challenges, and network. A signature component is the Orin R. Smith Life Skills Etiquette Dinner, an annual business and networking skills event that honors the memory of Stephanie Bennett-Smith’s husband.

Thank you to the Bender Foundation, Inc. and Stephanie Bennett-Smith for their incredible support and generosity. These gifts will help all our students enjoy new experiences, connect with one another, and find opportunities to thrive.

Be safe and be well.