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Groundbreaking Marks Beginning of Abernethy Village at Catawba College

September 19, 2006

Category: Alumni, Events, Students


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Although the 40-year-old Abernethy Hall on Catawba College's campus soon will be demolished to make way for five new residence halls, the new halls will be named Abernethy Village as a tribute and memorial to the Abernethy family. College President Dr. Robert Knott made that announcement Tuesday, Sept. 19, during a groundbreaking ceremony attended by Catawba College trustees, including Claude and Shuford Abernethy.

Knott lauded the trustees for "having had the vision to lead us" and the "lead donors for making this project possible."  Addressing the students, he noted that the project "won't be accomplished years after you graduate, but will be ready next year" with upper-class students eligible to occupy one of the 125 beds available in the new halls.

"As we look to the future, it is always important to remember our past," Knott said. "Our first choice was to renovate Abernethy Hall which was dedicated 40 years ago almost to the month, in October, 1966. When we realized we weren't going to be able to reclaim it, we decided to create new and improved facilities for our students who are of a different day and a different time."

Noting that Abernethy Hall and the Abernethy Physical Education Center were originally named for longtime College Trustee Julius W. Abernethy of Catawba County, Knott said the decision had been made to call the five new residence halls Abernethy Village. He then gave those gathered a brief history of the man and the Abernethy family who have figured so prominently in Catawba's history.

Julius W. Abernethy
Julius Abernethy was born in Hickory, Knott said, and was trading in real estate by the time he was nine years old. During World War I, he went to Washington, D.C. and was employed by the Army Corps of Engineers in purchasing resources for the war effort. Later, he was deeply involved in the textile business, owning close to 30 mills. When the Great Depression hit, although he was worth more than $1 million, his fortune was wiped out.

Ten years later, Julius Abernethy had earned all of his fortune back and enjoyed practicing the principle "that it's better to given than receive," Knott said. Catawba College, which had tapped Abernethy for service on its board of trustees, was among the beneficiaries of Abernethy's generosity. By the late 1960s, Julius Abernethy had given in excess of $5 million of his own money to the College. By the time of his death in 1978, he had given in excess of $7 million to the institution.

Today, Catawba College still enjoys the support of the Abernethy family. Julius Abernethy's nephew Claude Abernethy and his great-nephew Shuford Abernethy, a 1982 alumnus of the College, serve on the College Board of Trustees. The Maye Abernethy Trust, on the board of which both men serve, is one of the lead donors of Catawba's campaign for facilities. 

Student and College Response
Artistic Rendering of InteriorCatawba College SGA President Alex Will of Milton, Mass., and a member of the class of 2008, took the podium to speak on behalf of the students at the groundbreaking. He recalled the friendships he had made as a resident of Abernethy Hall during his freshman year. He thanked the donors who made gifts which allowed the Abernethy Village project to proceed.

Catawba College Vice President and Dean of Students Dr. Carl Girelli spoke on behalf of the faculty and staff of the College. "Today, we are surrounded and uplifted by many of the people who have given us the courage to embrace progress and the wisdom to avoid headlong change for the sake of change," Girelli said. "By our participation in this ceremony of breaking ground, we affirm together our commitment to this place as the beachhead on which we have staked our hopes, fortunes, careers, and futures.

"Abernethy Hall has been the cradle of lifetime friendships and memories," he continued. "Knowing that the people, not the brick and mortar, were at the heart of those treasures, we look forward to the life in community that these new residence halls will foster."

Lead Donors of the Campaign for Facilities
Many of the lead donors who contributed to the College's Campaign for Facilities attended the groundbreaking. In addition to the Maye Abernethy Trust, lead donors include Bryan '66 and Helen '67 Applefield, Chartwells, Larry and Susan Cloninger, Robert and Sara Cook, F & M Bank, Paul and Sue Fisher, Newton and Nancy Fowler, David Fuller, William and Shari Graham, Claude Hampton, James and Gerry Hurley, the Blanche & Julian Robertson Family Foundation, Inc., the Wilson Smith Family Foundation, William and Nancy Stanback, Fred and Alice Stanback, and Taylor Clay Products, Inc. 

Partners in Construction
Representatives of several companies partnering in the campus construction projects with Catawba were recognized. They include Bill Green of Wachovia Bank, David Hartman and Clay Lindsay of Summit Developers, Inc., James Oakes and Scott Seaman of Lawler-Wood Group, and Larry Robbs of Walter Robbs Callahan and Pierce, Architects PA.

Abernethy Village
RenderingTwo of the new residence halls will feature apartment-style living, with kitchens and common living space, while three of the new halls will offer suite-style living. Each of the five three-story halls will house between 24 and 28 students.

Two of the new residence halls will sit on Summit Avenue between Pine Knot Residence Hall and the Ruth Richards House and will face each other, sharing a common courtyard. The other three residence halls will be sited where Abernethy Hall currently sits, and these three will face the campus interior.

The Knoxville, Tennessee-based higher education consulting firm of Lawler-Wood will act as project manager and is working with the College to finalize plans for the construction and other renovations on campus.


  • View Photo Gallery ;
  • Groundbreaking for New Residence Halls ;
  • Plans for New and Improved Residence Halls and Academic Center ;


    Artistic Rendering of Exterior

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