Thomas Commons groundbreaking this spring

The groundbreaking for the renovation and expansion of the Thomas Commons will start in June, funded in large part with a $5.4 million gift from the estate of a Cornell parent.

The gift came from the estate of James Russell, father of Dr. Jean Russell '65. James Russell, who died in February 2011, graduated from Northwestern School of Business and worked at Illinois Tool Works for 40 years, retiring in 1979 as the company's CFO. Other recent gifts totaling $500,000, including $100,000 from Lon Mishler '69 and Carol Fair Mishler '70, and $25,000 from Andrew Buchmeyer '86 and Gretchen Liebenow Buchmeyer '88, will also help renovate and modernize the centerpiece of student life on Cornell's campus. The project should be complete by fall 2014.

The college's board of trustees was set to review the latest architectural plans for the renovation and additions to the Thomas Commons at its February meeting. Under the current design, the north addition will provide a fa├žade that better complements its historic Hilltop neighbors, improved entryways, new gathering spaces and a bookstore. The east addition will feature a new dining room on the upper level and a multipurpose room on the middle level. The food service area will be completely remodeled and expanded. A public elevator, two new classrooms and improved operational space for student organizations will also be added to the building. The Orange Carpet, which has been the hub of the building since it opened in 1966, will remain, of course.

Web extra - You can see renderings and read more about the project at