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William & Mary will renovate shuttered residence hall into national security hub after $30 million donation

Renderings of the planned renovation of Brown Hall, which will become known as Gates Hall. (Courtesy of Glavé and Holmes Architecture)
Renderings of the planned renovation of Brown Hall, which will become known as Gates Hall. (Courtesy of Glavé and Holmes Architecture)

An anonymous William & Mary Foundation trustee and alumna is donating $30 million to renovate a nearly 100-year-old residential building into a multidisciplinary academic facility focused on solving global issues.

It will be named for William and Mary alumnus and current chancellor Robert Gates, the former Secretary of Defense under both George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

“William & Mary is where I felt called to public service, and I can see that the call to make a difference is still felt strongly here,” Gates said in a statement. “This building will serve as a hub for generations of students and faculty to cultivate new ideas to contribute to the nation and the world.”

 The new building will house three existing centers: The Global Research Institute, the Institute for Integrative Conservation and the Whole of Government Center of Excellence. The trio are already partnering on examining international issues, like exploring fish biodiversity in Nepaland creating a conference on national security.

The goal in locating the departments together in their own building is to create a hub for global research at William and Mary. Administrators want to better leverage the resources of all three centers at once for the benefit of students learning about things like national security.

Brown Hall, the 94-year-old building that will become Gates Hall, was originally built as housing for Methodist women studying at the college. It was later used to house others, including Army soldiers, eventually becoming a freshman dorm until it was shuttered in 2021.

The building sits on the site of Williamsburg’s Bray School, which was attended by both enslaved and free Black children in the 1700’s. (LINK) The Bray School building still exists – it was moved in 1930 to make way for Brown Hall and was relocated again last year to a site at Colonial Williamsburg.

The new building will include exhibits telling the stories of the Bray School’s students.

Gates Hall is expected to be finished in the first half of 2026.

Ryan is WHRO’s business and growth reporter. He joined the newsroom in 2021 after eight years at local newspapers, the Daily Press and Virginian-Pilot. Ryan is a Chesapeake native and still tries to hold his breath every time he drives through the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel.

The world changes fast.

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