Low Plaza

Groundbreaking Ceremony Held for Law School's Lenfest Residence Hall

Rendering of Lenfest Hall by architects Gruzen Samton

Official groundbreaking ceremonies were held on Friday, February 15 for Lenfest Hall, the much-anticipated Columbia Law School residence hall named for H.F. (Gerry) Lenfest '58 and his wife Marguerite. The groundbreaking ceremony, held at the construction site on 121st Street between Amsterdam Avenue and Morningside Drive, included remarks from Lenfest, Columbia President George Rupp, and Columbia Law School Dean David Leebron.

In a recent New York Times story on the project, Leebron was quoted as saying, "We have been desperately short of housing, and that has impacted two major populations: transfer students and graduate students, more than 90 percent of whom are from abroad. Imagine arriving in New York under those circumstances without housing."

The structure was designed by noted New York architects Gruzen Samton to be distinctly different from a standard dormitory. Leebron told the New York Times, "I am consciously choosing not to say 'dormitory.' These are small studio or one-bedroom apartments with their own bathroom and their own kitchens. Some of them will accommodate spouses and children." Of the 211 units, 181 will be studios, 29 will have one bedroom, and one will have two bedrooms.

Columbia Law School received a gift of $15 million from H.F. (Gerry) Lenfest, an alumnus of the class of 1958, and his wife, Marguerite, to create the project. Lenfest Hall, which will be completed by fall 2003, is the next step toward ensuring that the quality of the Law School's facilities matches the intellectual excellence of its students, faculty and the education it provides. With the completion of Lenfest Hall, Columbia Law School will have invested more than $130 million in the improvement and expansion of its facilities since 1995.

The building furthers the School's substantial commitment to both American and international students, many of whom increasingly desire to live near the Law School in the thriving neighborhood of Morningside Heights. The residence hall will share its site with a second building, the new home of the School of Social Work.

With the construction of the new residence hall, Columbia Law School also will make a contribution to the community by turning an undeveloped site into a residential facility in keeping with the surrounding architecture that will enhance the neighborhood.

Scott Keller, partner, Gruzen Samton LLP (architects), Marguerite Lenfest, David Leebron, H.F. (Gerry) Lenfest, George Rupp

Gerry Lenfest is president of The Lenfest Group, a company principally involved in national satellite promotion of cable programming, digital satellite distribution, and cable advertising and market promotion. In January 2000, the company sold its cable television operations, among the ten largest cable television companies in the United States, to the Comcast Corporation. Lenfest also is the principal shareholder and chairman of the board of a company involved in telephone automatic number identification for cable television pay-per-view applications, and owns various other businesses in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Rhode Island.

Lenfest has been active in Law School affairs since his graduation, and received the School's Distinguished Achievement Award in 1997. He is permanent president of his class, and has served on his class fund committee since 1963. He served on the Columbia Law School Board of Visitors from 1988 to 2000 and the Law School Association Board from 1969 to 1973. Lenfest also serves on the Dean's Council of the Law School, and is a Trustee of Columbia University.

Published: Feb 19, 2002
Last modified:Sep 18, 2002

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