For the first time in 13 years, when sophomore residents at Texas Woman’s University unpack their rooms before school starts, every one of them will be on the university campus.

In recent years, the university hasn’t had enough housing to meet demand, instead relying on subleasing apartments near campus, with some last-minute registrants starting the semester in hotel rooms.

An hour after a ribbon-cutting for the new 872-bed, three-building Parliament Village residential complex, the first students started to move into the new dormitory rooms.

“I think it’s an incredible opportunity,” said Monica Mendez-Grant, vice president of student life. “I think it’s really going to add a new dimension to campus life, with a focus on sophomores and student retention.”

The $88.4 million project has been under construction since May 2018 and was made possible with a $10 million gift from alumna Mary L.A. Stanton. One of the buildings is named Mary’s Hall in her honor. At the ribbon-cutting, dozens of staff members and students wore maroon shirts that read “Thank you, Mary.”

Mary Stanton

Texas Woman’s University alumna Mary Stanton reacts after a day is named in her honor during Friday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony at Mary’s Hall and Parliament Village.

Jill Jester, chairwoman of the TWU Board of Regents, also read a proclamation from Denton Mayor Chris Watts at the event, a surprise to Stanton. The proclamation declared Friday as Mary L.A. Stanton Day in Denton, in honor of her contribution to TWU.

Stanton spoke right after and expressed her gratitude and surprise for the recognition. She mainly addressed students and explained why she wanted her gift to fund a housing project.

“Most important to me is you can have a study group here in one of the many study group areas without leaving Mary’s Hall,” she said. “The reason I decided to donate to a residence hall, which is now Mary’s Hall, is because studies show that when sophomores live on campus, they are better students. They are more likely to graduate. They often form lifelong relationships, and they have a much better college experience.”

The residential complex was funded through a public-private partnership, known as P3 student housing. Balfour Beatty Campus Solutions developed the project, and the nonprofit Collegiate Housing Foundation owns the property.

Stanton’s gift, announced last August, is the largest single donation in the school’s history, to be donated in $1 million increments over 10 years. The Frisco businesswoman attended TWU on scholarships when she was a single mother and commuter, graduating in 1989.

The project is the first of several to wrap up this semester, with Stanton noting in her remarks the gratitude for the new parking garage that opened at the start of 2019 and her excitement for the new student union in Hubbard Hall and dining hall to open this fall.

Classes at TWU, as well as the University of North Texas and North Central Texas College, begin on Monday.

JENNA DUNCAN can be reached at 940-566-6889 and via Twitter at @jennafduncan.

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