Established as a place where “the far-flung interests of the University could have some manner of mutual contact,” the first student center at the University of Virginia opened in 1934 at Madison Hall. Located across the street from the Rotunda, Madison Hall was home to the YMCA prior to being leased by the University as the first center for student activities. Madison Hall served this purpose until 1958.
Newcomb Hall opened in 1958 and was named in honor of the University’s second president, John Lloyd Newcomb (1881-1954). President Newcomb was known first and foremost as an educator who was vitally interested in students throughout his career at the University. He arrived as a graduate student in Civil Engineering and later served as a Professor and then Dean of Engineering. He subsequently assumed the post of Assistant to the President, Acting President, and eventually President of the University from 1931 to 1947.
The opening of Newcomb Hall marked the dedication of University space to provide both a community gathering place and a center for student activities. Over the years, Newcomb has continuously evolved and reinvented itself to meet the needs of a dynamic University Community. Yet, even as the physical layout and amenities of the building continue to change, the purpose and objectives of the building remain consistent with the original vision.
Two major renovations of Newcomb Hall were completed in 1997 and 2013. The 2008-2013 renovation included an expansion of dining facilities, refurbishment of the Newcomb Theater, and various upgrades to meeting rooms, the first floor concourse, ballroom, main lounge, and game room. The most recent renovation and refurbishment efforts focused on providing more space for social engagement and collaboration among University students, faculty, and staff.
Newcomb Centers & Services
Around the turn of the Twenty-first Century, the portfolio of programs and services managed by Newcomb professional staff and student leaders began to expand in significant ways. Several additional facilities were developed as centers of student activity within the Newcomb portfolio, including the Forum at Observatory Hill, Runk Green Room, Lambeth Commons, Student Activities Building, and others. In 2011, Ern Commons was completed in response to growing demand for space that could accommodate dances, banquet-style dinners, performances, and conferences. While Newcomb Hall remains the University’s flagship student center, these other facilities provide additional opportunities for students to leverage activity space on Grounds.
The professional staff at Newcomb also evolved in areas of responsibility and expertise. Originally focused on supporting student groups using Newcomb Hall space, administrative staff now support Dean of Students professional colleagues in their daily work as well as student organizations across the University. They provide service in several specialized areas: business and finance, facility operations, marketing, and technology and audio-visual needs. On the programmatic side, the Office of Student Activities and Office of Fraternity & Sorority Life engage student organizations and their officers to provide a wide array of advising and support opportunities, including assistance with managing multiple major student events across the University.
In recognition that the programs and services offered by Newcomb evolved well past the walls of a single building, the Office of the Dean of Students in 2014 established Newcomb Centers & Services to formalize the broad association of professional units and student organizations working in common cause. The core vision of Newcomb Centers & Services is to be the hub of community activity at the University, create a living laboratory for student self-governance, and provide world-class service to students, colleagues, and guests. The dynamic collaborative among student leaders, student staff, and professional staff make this vision a reality.
Newcomb Centers & Services honors the rich history and culture of a student center that for many years has truly been among the most significant focal points for activity at the University. That history continues to be written. We hope you will become part of it and carry forward the legacy of Mr. Newcomb and the generations of student leaders and professional staff in creating a uniquely vibrant and engaging community experience at the University of Virginia.