Lindenwood University announced Thursday that its new men's dorm building under construction on West Main Street across the street from its Belleville campus will be named in honor of donor Fred J. Kern.
"Having a dorm named after my dad is pretty exciting," St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern said during a gathering of school, city, county and university leaders.
While Lindenwood University-Belleville campus president Jerry Bladdick praised the Kern family for their help creating and building up the school, Mark Kern called turning an abandoned high school into a thriving college a "real community effort."
It was not revealed how much the Kern family donated to the project.
The men's dorm is the second new student residence hall for Lindenwood-Belleville. A women's dorm opened on the west side of the campus last year. The two buildings, which will cost a total of about $8 million and provide about 50,000 square feet of space, will be able to hold about 400 students.
The ceremony was a chance to get leaders from Lindenwood's St. Charles main campus over to the metro-east to see the progress on the halfway built residence hall.
Lindenwood University System President James Evans, who pushed to see the Belleville campus go from a night school to a full service, full-time day school, marveled at the progress.
"It's hard to believe that this beautiful, high quality day college started up less than five years ago," Evans said. "We're pleasantly surprised by how quickly it has grown."
Recently, Lindenwood announced that a study showed the university has had nearly $1 billion in economic impact on downtown Belleville in the past four years.
Lindenwood is housing some students in an area motel until the new dorm is open, Bladdick said. The school also owns an apartment complex, a converted motel and several single-family houses which it uses for student housing. Bladdick said he hopes the new dorm will be done by November.
About 1,900 students currently attend the Lindenwood-Belleville campus, about 1,040 of them full-time day students. He said those numbers could more than double by the end of the next decade to 4,500-5,000 students, which would represent the maximum capacity for the old high school site.
Bladdick said that the school had about 600 students living on campus when the fall semester of the 2013-14 school year started. Thanks to the addition of a women's dorm completed in January and when the new dorm is done, the capacity will be increased to 1,000 resident students.
Contact reporter Scott Wuerz at email@example.com or call 239-2626.