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Developer pledges $5 million gift to conservation school

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The Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation at George Mason University will name its new residence hall and dining complex in Front Royal after Northern Virginia real estate developer Gerald “Jerry” T. Halpin after receiving a $5 million gift commitment.

Halpin will provide the funds over the next five years. The gift will establish an endowment for the Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation (SMSC), providing scholarships for undergraduate and graduate students and professionals, support for curriculum and program development and faculty research.

SMSC completed the new complex in October. “We seek to attract the very best students to this program, and these students require scholarship support to ease their financial burden and be able to concentrate in an immersive living-learning environment,” Alonso Aguirre, executive director of the SMSC, said in a statement. “The gift so generously provided by the Halpin family will have a life-changing impact among this new generation of conservation leaders and practitioners.” 

Students in the program spend a semester living on the Front Royal campus studying endangered species and ecosystems. World experts — including Smithsonian scientists, Mason faculty and colleagues from other conservation organizations — provide students with direct connections to current teaching, research techniques and work in the field.

Halpin is the founder, former president and CEO of WEST*GROUP Management, LLC. He and his partners are credited with creating the West*Gate and West*Park areas of Tysons Corner and with developing more than 14 million square feet of office, retail, residential, resort, and industrial space in Northern Virginia and Maryland. Halpin also has served as a member of the Board of Trustees at GMU.

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