The center is now two times bigger and better.
by Lisa Martin
The numbers tell the story behind the new Dee J. Kelly Alumni & Visitors Center. The center hosted 80 events in 1997, the first full year it was open. Fast-forward two decades: The building welcomed nearly 68,000 visitors and hosted 1,052 events in 2017, while 300 event requests were turned down for lack of space.
Craig Kelly, son of Dee J. Kelly, does his impression of his father’s look with the portrait that hangs in the lobby of the expanded Dee J. Kelly Alumni & Visitors Center. Photo by Mark Graham
Thanks to extensive renovations completed in fall 2018, the building has doubled in size to 44,000 square feet. Several new conference rooms and multiuse spaces now accommodate groups from large to intimate. At a time when TCU boasts nearly 91,000 living alumni, the center serves as a hub for everyone from Golden and Silver Frogs to prospective students.
“I know my dad loved the building as it was, but this new building with its more profound entry hall would have pleased him a lot,” said Dee J. Kelly Jr., whose family gave $4 million — about a third of the project budget — to fund the remodeling effort. “I’ve been to a lot of college campuses over the years, and I’ve seen no finer alumni center anywhere in the country.”
Before his death in October 2015, Dee J. Kelly ’50, a renowned Texas attorney, political kingmaker and longtime TCU trustee, spearheaded the effort to expand the building that bears his name.
Phase one of the project, which kicked off in early 2017, focused on the addition of a second floor with a dozen staff offices, a conference room and storage space.
The Patterson Collaborative Team Space on the second floor of the Dee J. Kelly Alumni & Visitors Center is a space for the center’s staff. Photo by Mark Graham
“Our greatest challenge was to increase the meeting room square footage and put it in the right places while making sure the building could stay in continuous use during construction,” said Tony Hartin, an architect and project manager with Hahnfeld Hoffer Stanford who previously oversaw work on Rees-Jones Hall.
“The offices were overcrowded and in dire need of an upgrade,” said Lisa Aven ’79, a staff designer at TCU. “One of the things I love about the addition is that we made the upstairs more contemporary, fun and open.”
“We love it,” said Carrie Wright Brown ’00 (MLA ’04), director of alumni relations. “The space is modern, open and team-oriented.”
Brown and other staffers also appreciate two substantial closets for everything from TCU can coolers to pennants. A nearby balcony area also draws raves. “It’s great for game day,” Brown said. “You can look out and see the excitement.”
A long table is the centerpiece of the Janice L. Kelly Conference Room in the Dee J. Kelly Alumni & Visitors Center. Photo by Mark Graham
The second phase tackled the downstairs, including a face-lift for the Justin Boardroom, where the TCU Board of Trustees meets. The addition of a catering kitchen in the building’s south wing improves logistics, and the adjacent Irby and Miller Anteroom offers a space to retreat to make phone calls and take breaks.
New seating throughout the building connects form and function while hitting that sweet spot of comfort-meets-panache. Almost every surface — walls, floors and ceilings — benefited from a refresh.
Some of Dee J. Kelly’s memorabilia is on display in the Kritser Lobby and Atrium. Photo by Mark Graham
“Before the building was redone, it didn’t scream purple,” said Amanda Stallings ’97 (MLA ’01), associate vice chancellor for alumni relations. “Our motto is you can’t have enough purple! Everyone agrees it’s now a place that’s really vibrant and truly beautiful.”
“My favorite part of the new building is the atrium, which is so welcoming,” said Teri Baker O’Glee ’78, co-chair of the Dee J. Kelly Alumni & Visitors Center Campaign Committee. “For so many people, that’s their first experience with the university.”
Honed black granite tile flooring, which replaced tired slate, anchors the luminous area.
“It’s a timeless stone,” Aven said. “And the classic patterns of the carpets we selected aren’t going to look dated in a year or two.”
First-floor hallways are lined with vintage black-and-white photos taken around campus that sport new, uniform framing. In the updated Kritser Lobby area, towering cases now house memorabilia, including treasured pieces from the elder Kelly.
Conference rooms throughout the building offer up-to-date technology, which had evolved significantly in 22 years.
“We used wireless technology where we could and improved the A/V systems,” Hartin said. “The goal was to make the building a lot easier for people to use.”
Dee J. Kelly’s daughter-in-law, Dana Kelly, daughter Cynthia Barnes and grandson Kelly Barnes watch the dedication ceremonies for the expanded alumni center. Photo by Mark Graham
A crowd gathered in early December for the center’s dedication ceremony, which highlighted the efforts of 100 gifts as well as the abiding support of the Kelly family. All of them helped make the renovation a reality.
“I remember when we were in a little gray building on Princeton Street,” said Bridget Thomas ’68, president of the alumni association in 1996, when the Kelly Center on Stadium Drive was unveiled. “We have come so far.”
Laura Shrode Miller ’79, co-chair of the center’s campaign committee, supported the expansion from day one.
“The center was wonderful before,” she said. “But now it’s just fabulous.”
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Amanda Stallings ’97 (MLA ’01) discusses the Dee J. Kelly Alumni & Visitors Center renovation and meeting people where they are.
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