Student Center Expansion and Dede Robertson’s Contributions to Regent

In September 2022, Regent University broke ground on the new patio expansion to the Dede Robertson Student Center. The project is three years in the making and is expected to be complete by spring of 2023. With this extension, Regent hopes to create a beautiful space where students can engage in fellowship and study. Pauline Carraway, the Director of Purchasing and Administrative Services, shared some insider details and the vision behind the venture.

Mrs. Carraway recalled that the project was inspired by Executive Vice President of Student Services, Dr. Joseph Umidi, who reached out to Mrs. Robertson with the idea of creating more outdoor collaborative spaces for students. After extensive research on how other universities were using their outside living spaces, their team quickly learned “Regent’s vision aligned with what many others were either already doing or set to do.” Desiring to build a lovely outdoor space, Mrs. Robertson cast the vision for a patio that extends from the student center. Comments and supporting information from student surveys and town hall meetings refined the vision for the project.

The new expansion is not the only architectural impact Mrs. Robertson had on Regent University’s campus. Mrs. Carraway personally worked with her for over 18 years, helping bring her visions and projects to life for the aesthetics and joy of the university. She executed Mrs. Robertson’s wishes and now does the same for Dr. Robertson, who has “stepped in on her behalf to ensure that her vision and legacy carries on in a manner that represents the highest standards that the Lord gave to Regent University.”

Dr. Umidi, a close friend of the Robertson family, shared that Mrs. Dede Robertson continued planning until the last months of her life. Her brilliant designs are not the only way Mrs. Robertson contributed to the campus; she also recognized the sovereign hand of God by regularly praying over campus life and students. Providing an insight into how Regent University’s students were blessed by her prayers for over thirty years, Dr. Umidi stated, “The Dede Robertson thirty-year plus weekly Bible study regularly prayed for our students, while she took the lead in decorating all the campus buildings to express her passion for beauty and creativity in our learning environment.”

With Mrs. Robertson’s abundant impact on Regent’s campus in mind, the Student Center was officially renamed the Dede Robertson Student Center in August of 2022 by Regent’s Board of Trustees. The completed patio will feature a commemorative plaque affixed to the structure honoring Mrs. Robertson and her many years of serving the students of Regent University. 

Her diligence for excellence and dedication to beauty makes it clear that she never just wanted to create a physically appealing space for students but an environment that stimulated Christian community and fellowship. The new patio will be equipped with a gas fire pit and diverse seating options, making it comfortable throughout the year. Whether students are crunching for a deadline or meeting their friends for dinner, the Dede Robertson Student Center Patio will be the perfect spot to gather.

Aesthetically, it will match the university’s classical Georgian architectural style while exhibiting warm earth-tone colors. A featured brick serpentine seating wall with beautiful natural limestone as the top and a wooden pergola made from California redwood will accent the space. Outside of the shade structure, Adirondack chairs will surround the fire pit, and other open areas will have matching tables. You no longer need to go off campus to find a café with outdoor seating. The patio will be paved with brick as a seamless extension of the student center with walkways. A covered pergola with retractable screens will provide ample protection from the elements for students to continue enjoying the space even on those rainy Virginia days while allowing the beautiful Virginia sun to shine through in the early months of spring. 

Mrs. Roberston wanted the design to be “natural and organic, taking cues from nature. She wanted students to have a multi-use outdoor space that they could enjoy with their peers but could also be used for outdoor study or quiet reflection.” Informed by her time as a registered nurse, Mrs. Robertson “knew full well the mental and physical benefits of being outside.” Mrs. Carraway added, “It’s proven that as much time as you can spend outside significantly improves mental health by reducing stress, negative thoughts and anxiety while enhancing students’ quality of daily life. Creating fellowship spaces like this helps encourage students to stay on campus in a safe and healthy environment.” So there was a therapeutic application in mind paired with a community-building element. Mrs. Robertson’s contributions will continue to equip the students, faculty and staff of Regent University to fulfill the calling God has placed on their hearts through elegant physical spaces. 

Mrs. Carraway also shared exciting news for some future projects! Regent anticipates installing a 9-hole disc golf course as another outdoor recreational amenity for students. Other future outdoor projects include, but are not limited to, various applications for outdoor classrooms and gazebos for small-group study. Regent was blessed with and will continue to witness the blessing of Mrs. Robertson’s vision and commitment to creating a vibrant student community at Regent University with the new patio extension.