An anonymous donor has given $15 million to Lawrence University toward the construction of a new campus center university officials announced today. The donation is the largest philanthropic gift in Lawrence’s 160-year history — surpassing an $8 million gift for the construction of Hiett Hall — and represents a major milestone in the funding of the proposed $32.7 million facility.

“The Trustees of Lawrence have made a new campus center the highest capital priority for the college,” said Lawrence University President Jill Beck in announcing the gift. “An unprecedented gift of this magnitude will help make that priority a reality.”

Plans are being finalized for the construction of a 100,000 square-foot facility that will house the campus’ dining services and provide much needed space and support for student organizations and extracurricular activities. The new campus center will replace outmoded and outgrown facilities located in the Memorial Union, built in 1951, and Jason Downer Commons, the main dining hall since 1968.

“Lawrence is by design a residential college and residence life is an integral part of a Lawrence education,” said Beck. “The new campus center, which will be made possible by the remarkable generosity of this anonymous donor and others, is a very important next step in enhancing the quality of the life for students at Lawrence.”

The campus center, which is being designed by Uihlein-Wilson Architects of Milwaukee and KSS Architects of Princeton, N.J., will be located on the Fox River bluff along John Street, just east of Lawe Street and next to Sage Hall.

The center, to be built on four levels, will feature large amounts of glass for natural light and outstanding views of the Fox River. Building highlights include an outdoor cafe, a campus store, a mail room, a 150-seat cinema, a “Great View Room” for special events, a dining hall as well as conference rooms and offices for student organizations and administrators. The center will be connected to the main campus via a wide, landscaped “land bridge” over Lawe St.