Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation Opens New Residential Complex in Front Royal

By Tara Laskowski

The Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation, housed on the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute complex in Front Royal, Virginia, celebrated completion of its new academic, residential, and dining facilities in October with an announcement of a $5 million gift that will name the residence hall and dining complex the G. T. Halpin Family Living and Learning Community.

Real estate developer Gerald “Jerry” T. Halpin will provide the funds to the university over the next five years. The gift will establish an endowment for the school, providing scholarships for undergraduate and graduate students and professionals, and support for curriculum and program development and faculty research.

The new G. T. Halpin Family Living and Learning Community facility at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute can house 120 students. Photo by Danett Crespo.

“We seek to attract the very best students to this program, and these students require scholarship support to ease their financial burden and be able to concentrate in an immersive living-learning environment,” says Alonso Aguirre, the school’s executive director. “The gift so generously provided by the Halpin family will have a life-changing impact among this new generation of conservation leaders and practitioners.”

The Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation engages undergraduates, graduate students, and professionals from around the world in a range of compelling transdisciplinary programs in conservation biology. The participants thrive in an atmosphere of creative, critical, and analytic thinking on how to search solutions to some of the most intractable conservation problems facing society today.

From left, Mason President Ángel Cabrera, benefactors Adrienne Mars and Gerald “Jerry” Halpin, and Smithsonian Secretary Wayne Clough at the dedication ceremony. Photo by Danett Crespo.

Each of the students spends a semester living on the Front Royal campus studying endangered species and ecosystems. Highly qualified world experts—including Smithsonian scientists, Mason faculty, and colleagues from other U.S. and international conservation organizations—provide students with direct connections to the most current teaching, research techniques, and work in the field. Students thrive in a collaborative atmosphere of creative analytical thinking.

The new residential complex is a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold-certified Standard building. Some of its features include green-roof technology, geothermal heating and cooling, composting kitchen waste, reuse of rainwater, and storm-water management. The facility will house 120 students.

Mason President Ángel Cabrera addresses the group at the building dedication in Front Royal, Virginia. Photo by Danett Crespo.

Halpin is the founder and former president and CEO of WEST*GROUP Management LLC. He, along with his partners, are credited with creating the West*Gate and West*Park areas of Tysons Corner, Virginia,  and developing more than 14 million square feet of office, retail, residential, resort, and industrial space in Northern Virginia and Maryland. Halpin  previously served on the George Mason University Foundation Board of Trustees.

“West*Group and the Halpin family have been a part of Northern Virginia and Fairfax County for more than 60 years, and we have always been mindful of our obligation to give back to our Northern Virginia community,” says Halpin. “George Mason has been such an important part of the continued success of Fairfax County and of the well-being and education of its citizens that we are pleased to make this gift. The conservation work that the university is doing in Front Royal, in association with the Smithsonian, is ultimately of terrific importance for us as citizens of a great metropolitan area and as inhabitants of this planet.”

This article originally appeared on the university’s News site.

To read more stories about Mason, check out the university’s News site.

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