Denison Receives $6 Million Gift in Support Of Historic Cleveland Hall Renovation
Posted: March 3, 2006
A generous $6 million commitment from Donald L. Bryant Jr. ’64 of St. Louis substantially advances Denison’s plan to renovate the Bryant Arts Center on West College Street, a facility for studio art and art history. Bryant is a longtime resident of St. Louis where he is chairman and CEO of Bryant Group International L.L.C. (an executive fringe benefit planning firm for public and privately held businesses) and of the Bryant Family Vineyards, a premium winery in Napa Valley, Calif.
The renovation project — which awaits further funding for completion — is part of Denison’s $160 million Higher Ground Campaign, publicly announced in April 2005. To date, Denison has received gifts and pledges exceeding $115 million, making it the most successful fund-raising effort in the institution’s 175-year history. The Bryant gift is the second-largest commitment ever received from an individual for a capital facility.
Campaign Co-Chair Thomas Hoaglin '71, president, Board chair and CEO of Huntington Bancshares, Inc., responded enthusiastically to the announcement, praising Bryant for his leadership on behalf of this important campaign component.
“Don first encountered the wonders of the world of art while studying at Denison,” Hoaglin said, “and he has been able to maintain that interest as a central part of his life ever since. He is to be commended for following his heart and helping us to keep the fine arts at the center of the liberal arts experience.”
Bryant is a trustee of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City and serves on the International Advisory Board of the Tate Gallery in London. He was lead gift donor to the Bryant Art Center at the Mary Institute and Saint Louis Country Day School in St. Louis, and is heavily involved in the St. Louis arts community, working with such organizations as the Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Dance St. Louis and the St. Louis Art Museum.
Hoaglin’s co-chair in the Higher Ground drive, civic volunteer Mary Jane Armacost ’62, also affirmed the importance of Bryant’s commitment, emphasizing that the gift will preserve an important Denison landmark.
“Cleveland Hall is a defining structure on our campus skyline,” Armacost said. “It is on one of the major paths between the upper and lower campuses, meaning students pass by it every day. Renovation will return it to its pristine beauty and preserve it for future generations.”
Don himself is straightforward about why the project appealed to him. “I have been active in the art world for many years, and I believe it is important to support learning in the arts. Additionally, I am an avid collector and have lent and donated many paintings and sculptures to museums. Personally, with the exception of my family, there is nothing that gives me more pleasure than art. It’s my true passion.”
The renovation of Denison University’s historic Cleveland Hall includes a substantial addition on the east side which, in the words of the architectural firm of Beyer Blinder Belle, “will play off the formal qualities of the existing building with contemporary design.” To the north (uphill), additions will include faculty offices and a foundry.
Cleveland Hall, opened in 1904 as a gymnasium, honors the generosity of several Cleveland industrialists and trustees, including oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller (1839-1937) and major benefactor Ambrose Swasey (1846-1937). It is in the Jeffersonian Federal Revival style in brick and stone. The renovation, conceived by the New York architectural firm of Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners — who have overseen restorations of such important buildings as Union Station in Washington, D.C., and the complex at Ellis Island — will retain the historic facade, but effectively replace most of the existing interior with studio space for painting, ceramics, sculpture, printmaking, photography and metal fabrication. Abundant natural light will flood studios in a planned expansion on the east side.
Because Cleveland Hall lies within the boundaries of’s Architectural Review Overlay District, Denison officials have already been in conversation with the Planning Commission about the renovation.
Denison University, located in Granville, Ohio, was founded in 1831 and is a privately supported, coeducational college of liberal arts and sciences, offering three different bachelor’s degrees (B.A., B.S. and B.F.A.) among more than 40 majors and concentrations. Some 2,000 full-time undergraduate students represent 47 states and 34 foreign countries. Denison is fully accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools and is a member of the Great Lakes Colleges Association (GLCA) and a founding member of the North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC). Denison’s chapter of Phi Beta Kappa was established in 1910. Dale T. Knobel is Denison’s 19th president.
Denison University, founded in 1831, is an independent, residential liberal arts institution located in Granville, Ohio. A highly selective college enrolling 2,100 full-time undergraduate students from all 50 states and dozens of foreign countries, Denison is a place where innovative faculty and motivated students collaborate in rigorous scholarship, civic engagement and the cultivation of independent thinking.
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