Rolf Lewis Donates Over $8 Million to Dominican

The money will go to renovate Meadowlands Hall that will enable Dominican to establish a health sciences building that will house the Department of Nursing and the Department of Occupational Therapy.

Dominican University of California received the largest ever gift in its 122-year history, according to University President Mary B. Marcy.

The $8 million-plus gift from Rolf Lewis and family will enable the University to transform Meadowlands Hall, a 124-year-old Victorian mansion, into a state-of-the-art academic facility. Lewis, founder of the San Francisco restaurant Rolf’s Since 1960, was a pioneer in the revitalization of San Francisco’s Ghirardelli Square area.

The renovation of the 30,000-square-foot Meadowlands Hall will enable Dominican to establish a health sciences building that will house the Department of Nursing and the Department of Occupational Therapy. The building will provide classroom, research and laboratory space for the departments’ activities, which combine education and research with the provision of services to the community. The renovation also will expand the space dedicated to medical simulation laboratories so that students can gain clinical experience in a risk-free virtual reality environment.

The renovation will triple the amount of square footage dedicated to Nursing and Occupational Therapy in order to position Dominican to meet the rapidly growing demand for skilled health care workers, including occupational therapists, nurses and public health professionals.

“The restoration of this historic venue will transform Meadowlands Hall into a dynamic center for teaching and learning,” Marcy said. “Mr. Lewis’ extraordinary generosity will enable us to draw from our past to meet a future need as we, with very great care, transform one of the oldest buildings on our campus into what I believe will become our most important building.”

Lewis has served as a member of Dominican’s Board of Trustees since 2011. Last year he established a scholarship program in support of students enrolled in Dominican’s nursing program.

“The chance to help young people realize their educational goals is my inspiration,” he said. “Nursing and Occupational Therapy are helping professions. When I considered what a gift like this could do – helping not only Dominican students but also the thousands of lives they will touch throughout their careers – the decision was easy.”

Meadowlands, so named for its location in Golden Meadows as it was then known, was constructed for San Francisco Chronicle publisher Michael H. de Young in 1888 for the price of $7,880. M. H. de Young sold the building to the Dominican Sisters of San Rafael in 1918 for $10.

“Meadowlands was Dominican’s first significant gift. Appropriately, Meadowlands is the focus of our largest ever gift,” Marcy said.

Meadowlands served as then-Dominican College’s very first dormitory hall. Over the decades, it has served as an important hub for campus life, housing offices and meeting space. For nearly 100 years, Meadowlands has answered some of the Dominican community’s most pressing needs, first as a dormitory and later expanding to include an assembly hall, conference rooms and academic offices. In 1977, Meadowlands was named a building of historical importance by the San Rafael Cultural Commission. Meadowlands is the University’s second-oldest surviving structure.

The departments of Nursing and Occupational Therapy currently occupy five different buildings across campus and one off-campus location.

The Department of Nursing is Dominican’s single largest academic program, with enrollment of almost 500 undergraduate and graduate students. Founded in 1996, the Department of Occupational Therapy is one of the University’s fastest growing departments, with an enrollment of 190 undergraduate and graduate students.

In California, the number of nurses is expected to increase by 26 percent to 297,200 by the year 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nationally, the number of nurses also is expected to increase by 26 percent to 3,449,300 by the year 2018. Employment of occupational therapists is expected to increase 33 percent from 2010 to 2020, much faster than the average for all occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In fall 2013, Dominican will introduce an undergraduate degree program in public health, which, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, is one of the top five majors on the rise. Also in 2013, Dominican will introduce a graduate program in Clinical Lab Sciences (CLS), which will become the only graduate level CLS program in California.

Marcy envisions the Lewis family gift as the first of many transformational gifts that will advance the university. In order to galvanize support from all corners of the Dominican community, the donor has issued a matching challenge, in which gifts received from additional donors will be matched dollar-for-dollar up to $2.5 million.

“Our donor’s hope is this gift will inspire others – alumni, parents, friends and members of our greater community – to step forward as a means of demonstrating their support for Dominican’s future,” Marcy said.

The renovation of Meadowlands will be a creative blend of old and new, and restoration plans will be designed to preserve the historical features of the Victorian mansion. The exterior will remain the same, while the main level will be preserved and restored. Classrooms, research and laboratory space will be located on the second and third floors.

“This is a gift that will keep on giving," Lewis said. "I’d say that’s a pretty good return on investment.”

tom luther November 15, 2012 at 05:05 PM
Congratulations to Rolf Lewis and Dominican University! Rolf is a wonderful gentleman whom I know and admire. Tom Luther
paula price January 10, 2013 at 07:44 PM
Congratulations Rolf! We've been your fans for years esp. in your restaurant, the Culinary Academy and then the joint venture with Marshall Lewis. I'll never forget in 1981 when you came to my ticket window at Alpine Meadows and flashed your Am Card in my window. I said: Rolf Rolf is that really you? You're a super man and the Dominican University will be most grateful for your generous donation. Paula & Carl Price, Alameda, CA


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