AU receives $4.5M in donations for new athletics building, leadership academy

$3 million to go toward Center for Athletic Performance, $1.5 million for the AU Athletics’ Eagles Leadership Academy

AU receives $4.5M in donations for new athletics building, leadership academy

American University announced Monday that the University received two donations totaling $4.5 million, which will aid the construction of the Center for Athletic Performance (CAP) and revamp the AU Eagles Leadership Academy, according to an email from President Sylvia Burwell.  

“These contributions further our work to provide a student-centered, holistic experience both inside and outside the classroom,” Burwell said in the email. “We are focused on sustaining and growing our dynamic campus environment that provides AU students with opportunities, support and connections.”

The Bender Foundation, Inc. donated $3 million to support the ongoing development of the CAP, a 58,000 square foot on-campus recreation center that will include training centers, a volleyball venue and practice gymnasiums for basketball. In September 2019, the University received two donations for the construction of the CAP which totaled $8 million.

"The generosity of the Bender Foundation will continue to have a remarkable impact on our students well into the future,” said Billy Walker, the director of Athletics and Recreation, in a press release. “The CAP will also aid in creating a heightened sense of school spirit and community pride. The AU Department of Athletics and Recreation is proud to be a part of this vision for the university's future."

An updated draft of AU’s 2021 campus plan stated that the center may be located on the northwest quadrant of campus. Before the pandemic, Bender Arena often housed on-campus events such as concerts and job fairs, which posed challenges for the athletes' practice schedules. As of last year, all 14 teams at least partially operated in Bender Arena.

“Having our own designated practice space and state-of-the-art weight room exponentially enhances our student-athletes’ experience at AU,” said Mike Brennan, the men’s basketball head coach. “It will also allow us to compete with so many more schools and programs across the country. So any time we hear about concrete steps that can be taken to make this a reality, it gets everyone excited for the department, our school [and] our players.” 

AU Board of Trustees member Stephanie M. Bennett-Smith also donated $1.5 million in order to support the AU Athletics’ Eagles Leadership Academy, which has been renamed the Stephanie M. Bennett-Smith Life Skills & Leadership Academy (SASP) in her honor.

The SASP aims to give student-athletes opportunities to gain formational experiences that will help them build leadership skills and add to their personal growth.

This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.

jyoung@theeagleonline.com, snusbaum@theeagleonline.com

Never miss a story

Get our weekly newsletter delivered right to your inbox.

More from The Eagle