Armstrong gift to support new SMU living-learning community

Two alumni help make it possible for more future students to live on campus.

Bill and Liz Armstrong

DALLAS (SMU) – Two alumni who lived on campus as SMU students are now making it possible for greater numbers of future students to enjoy the residential experience with new enhancements.

Alumni Elisabeth Martin Armstrong and William D. Armstrong, of Denver, have committed a $5 million gift toward the construction of SMU’s new Residential Commons complex, a grouping of five residential facilities and a dining hall, designed to expand learning outside the classroom.

The Residential Commons model represents a new direction in SMU student housing. The five Residential Commons in this project will enable SMU to implement its new requirement that sophomores live on campus, in addition to first-year students. Campus living beyond the first year has been linked to higher retention rates and creates a greater sense of camaraderie among students. Each Residential Commons will include faculty in residence, expanding opportunities for learning, informal interactions and mentoring, says Paul Ludden, SMU provost and vice president for academic affairs.

Construction of the Residential Commons will begin in early 2012. The complex will be located north of Mockingbird Lane near the Dedman Center for Lifetime Sports and Gerald J. Ford Stadium on the main campus. Expected to open in fall 2014, it will provide housing for 1,250 students, along with a dining facility for residents of the complex. Each Commons building also will include classrooms, seminar space, and faculty accommodations. Currently existing residence halls will also be renovated to achieve the Residential Commons model by 2014.

In addition to private gifts, revenue from room and board will help to fund each Residential Commons.

“The Armstrong family’s gift to SMU will help ensure that future students will benefit from a close-knit, living and learning community that will enhance their SMU experience,” says SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “We are grateful to the Armstrongs for funding the first Residential Commons, and we are pleased to name it in their honor.”

SMU Residential Commons Rendering
Residential Commons Rendering
Supporting SMU has long been a family tradition for the Armstrongs, 1982 graduates who are among three generations of family members who have attended or are attending SMU. Bill and Liz Armstrong met as geology students their first year at SMU. They serve as co-chairs of SMU’s Second Century Campaign Steering Committee for Denver, served from 2008 through 2011 as chairs of the Parent Leadership Council and were members of the committee for their 25-year class reunion. They hosted a Denver campaign kick-off and several summer send-off parties for Denver-area students attending SMU.

In addition, they contributed support for construction of the Armstrong Casita student residence at SMU’s Taos campus, where as students they attended geology field camp. They are consistent givers to the University’s Annual Fund, and they contributed toward the rebuilding of the new Pi Beta Phi house, where Liz and her daughter, Leigh, were both active members.

At most SMU home football games, they tailgate on The Boulevard with their extended family. Daughter Leigh, the eleventh member of their family to attend SMU, graduates May 14 from SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts, and in 2010 daughter Lindsey earned a Master’s degree in education from the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development.

“As students, Bill and I both lived on campus and we loved it,” Liz Armstrong says. “The new sophomore residency requirement really should be called the ‘sophomore residency privilege’ – it will be such a wonderful experience for students living there.”

Bill Armstrong, an admirer of Doak Walker, said he is pleased to be funding the Residential Commons that will be situated closest to the campus statue of the famous running back outside Ford Stadium and Dedman Center for Lifetime Sports. “Plus, it’s our honor to contribute toward the tremendous changes happening on campus.”

The couple owns Armstrong Oil and Gas headquartered in Denver, where Mr. Armstrong serves as president. They established Epoch Estate Wines in 2004 and introduced their first bottles in 2009 from their Paderewski Vineyard in west Paso Robles, California.

Active in supporting the arts, Mr. Armstrong is a member of the Denver Art Museum Board of Trustees and a past trustee of Colorado Ballet. Mrs. Armstrong co-chairs the Advisory Council and serves on the Board of Directors of the School of American Ballet in New York City. She also is a member of the National Advisory Council of Central City Opera in Denver, and is a past member of its Board of Directors. She is a past chair of the Colorado Ballet Board. In addition, Mrs. Armstrong is an incoming member of the Board of Trustees of the Westminster School in Simsbury, Connecticut, the preparatory school that their three children attended. Bill Armstrong also is a member of the All-American Wildcatters.

“The Residential Commons will bring a new vitality to campus and a stronger sense of belonging for our first- and second-year students,” says Lori White, vice president for student affairs at SMU. “Students will have opportunities to continue the relationship with their Commons during their junior and senior years through ongoing social and academic events.”

The Armstrongs’ gift counts toward SMU Unbridled: The Second Century Campaign, which has raised $538 million to date toward its goal of $750 million to support student quality, faculty and academic excellence and the campus experience.




SMU is a nationally ranked private university in Dallas founded 100 years ago. Today, SMU enrolls nearly 11,000 students who benefit from the academic opportunities and international reach of seven degree-granting schools.