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Date: June 3, 1999
Seattle Developer Gives $4 Million to Princeton for Dormitory Renovation
PRINCETON, NJ -- Bagley Wright, president of Bagley Wright Investments of Seattle, has committed $4 million to Princeton University to renovate and rename a part of one of the University's historic Collegiate Gothic-style dormitories. A member of Princeton's Class of 1946, Wright was a developer of Seattle's landmark Space Needle and chairman of Physio Control Corporation from 1968 until its acquisition by Eli Lilly in 1980.
Wright's gift will support renovations to the north section of Patton Hall, built in 1906. The renovations involve dividing the original structure into two separate dormitories, with the south dormitory retaining the name Patton Hall and the north dormitory being renamed Bagley Wright '46 Hall. Among the most striking features of this reconstruction is a dramatic new Gothic archway that cuts through the north section. This new archway will be especially significant because it creates a new uninterrupted east-west pathway through the campus, extending from the Frist Campus Center, now under construction along Washington Road, along the back of Dillon Gymnasium and on to College Road and the Graduate College.
"Princeton's Gothic buildings remain a defining feature of our campus and maintaining them is an essential responsibility," said University President Harold T. Shapiro. "We are grateful to Bagley Wright for his generous and insightful gift, which will help us preserve this historic architecture while modernizing our facilities for future generations of students."
The renovations in Wright and Patton Halls are part of an extensive program of renovating and maintaining Princeton's undergraduate dormitories. Until recently, Princeton's dormitories have been so heavily used throughout the year that major maintenance has been all but impossible. But the opening of a new dormitory, Scully Hall, in fall 1998, enabled the University to close deteriorated facilities for a year at a time so they could be thoroughly updated and renovated. As part of this major reconstruction program, the dormitories also will be equipped with more common spaces and improved handicapped access.
"Throughout my life, I have been committed both to community and the arts," Wright said. "What makes this gift so special to me is that it enables me to contribute to both -- to the arts, by helping to maintain Princeton's unique architectural beauty, as well as to the strong sense of community that develops among students in these historic dormitories."
Wright, who has been called the "patron saint of the arts" in Seattle, was an English literature major while at Princeton, where he lived in the Gothic-style Blair and Cuyler Halls. Although he began his career as a newspaper reporter and editor in New York, he moved to the Seattle area in 1956, where he started his own real estate development company. Wright and his partners were responsible for building the Seattle Space Needle, a towering 605-foot structure, which is one of the most enduring symbols of Washington and the Northwest. Completed in December 1961 for the 1962 Seattle World's Fair, the building was a design and construction triumph and the tallest structure west of the Mississippi River.
In the 1950s, Wright and his wife Virginia, who studied art at Barnard College, began a collection of modern and contemporary art that is widely recognized as one of the most outstanding in the nation. Some of that collection was shown this year in a special exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum, where Wright once served as acting director. Wright also served as founding president of the Seattle Repertory Company, which later honored him by naming its theater for him, and he has been a board member of the Seattle Symphony.
Wright's gift is part of The Anniversary Campaign for Princeton, launched in 1995 to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the signing of the University's charter. The Campaign, which now has raised more than $740 million, is seeking to raise a total of $900 million to strengthen the University's campus facilities, as well as its programs of teaching, scholarship and research.