The Fort Lewis College Foundation has received a $1 million donation to fund a new Native American Center at the student union building.
The large donation comes from the John and Sophie Ottens Foundation. The Ottens, a deceased Sedona, Ariz., couple, established their foundation to support American Indian education and health.
"We're just really pleased to be able to support Fort Lewis," said Henry Hooper, president of the Ottens Foundation. "I don't know if it's always recognized in the community how important the Native American students are at Fort Lewis."
FLC has 758 American Indian students, making up 20 percent of the college's enrollment. Members of federally recognized tribes get free tuition at FLC as part of the college's founding charter.
The Native American Center will be similar to the current center, located in the Miller Student Services building, offering computers and meeting space, but also a shared kitchen. An outdoor patio could include a teepee and fire pit. Display space will be available for American Indian art and artifacts.
The new center will be on the bottom floor of the College Union Building.
"I think it gives (students) a new place to come," said Yvonne Bilinski, director of the Native American Center.
The Ottens Foundation also has donated to American Indian student clubs at Fort Lewis.
"They've been very generous to the college for a number of different things," said Margie D. Gray, executive director of the FLC Foundation.
The gift brings the tally for the foundation's $5 million College Union Building campaign to $3 million.
"Even in a time when it's a bad time economically, our donors have been very generous, and we feel very fortunate," Gray said. "Obviously, we still have a long ways to go."
The gift was the largest the FLC Foundation has received in several years, Gray said. The college will receive the donation in three payments, beginning with $350,000 this month. In the springs of 2010 and 2011, it will receive $325,000 payments.
Fort Lewis is expanding the student union by 38,000 square feet and renovating the existing 72,000 square-foot structure.