Alumni will soon have a new home on campus, thanks to a $2 million gift from BU trustee Shamim Dahod (CGS’76, CAS’78, MED’87) and her husband, Ashraf Dahod, for the creation of the Dahod Family Alumni Center in the BU Castle, which will be renovated starting next spring.
“Once again the Dahods have shown their extraordinary devotion to Boston University,” says President Robert A. Brown. “This time, the Dahods’ exemplary generosity will strengthen the University community by making it possible for us to create dedicated on-campus space for alumni. This will help build connections among students, faculty, and graduates—connections that span generations and translate into a greater sense of community and many new opportunities.”
“I feel the strength of the University is the alumni, and you have to show the alumni that they matter,” says Shamim Dahod, who recently visited the 101-year-old Castle. “Having this kind of building, an iconic building, shows the University is very committed to keeping the alumni in the fold.”
The $9 million project, planned since 2013, will provide a top-to-bottom restoration, preserving the Castle’s distinctive architecture and décor while making over the second and third floors to house facilities and gathering places for alumni, as well as the Alumni Relations offices.
“It will become the portal through which we hope alumni will reengage with the University,” says Steven Hall, vice president for alumni relations.
The Dahods have been deeply involved with the Campaign for Boston University from the beginning, and they were impressed that it reached its $1 billion goal this year, more than a year ahead of schedule. (The goal has been extended to $1.5 billion.)
“The alumni are very committed,” says Shamin Dahod. “They had this robust response to the University request. That made me think that we have to have a place on the premises of the University where the alumni can say it’s their home.”
The new gift is the couple’s second major contribution to the University. They gave $10.5 million to the School of Medicine in 2008, which established the Shamim and Ashraf Dahod Breast Cancer Research Center and endowed assistant professor and international scholar positions there.
MED has “been able to bring in the best research physicians, and that has in turn translated into so much that they have been able to achieve in terms of their goals,” Shamim Dahod says. “That is very satisfying to us to see that.”
“They are able to push the boundaries,” says Ashraf Dahod.
According to Hall, the permitting process for the Alumni Center has already begun, and construction will start after Commencement. A grand opening in fall 2018—perhaps on Alumni Weekend—is the goal.
High school sweethearts from Mumbai, India, the Dahods moved to the United States in the 1970s. Shamim Dahod is a primary care physician and board-certified internist in Chelmsford, Mass. She earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from the College of Arts & Sciences, worked as researcher in a MED lab for five years, and earned a medical degree from MED in 1987. She was a University overseer before being elected to the Board of Trustees in 2013.
She says she doesn’t recall visiting the Castle as an undergraduate, largely because she was already married and living off campus. “I was very mindful of my train timings; I rushed in and out,” she says. But as Hall led the Dahods on a tour during their visit, both she and her husband were fascinated by the building’s many unusual design features, from ornate moldings to hidden staircases. “You have to restore its beauty and its culture,” she says. “How appropriate it will be for it to be an alumni center.”
Ashraf Dahod, a computer engineer turned entrepreneur, holds degrees from the University of Mumbai, the University of Michigan, Stanford University, Northeastern, and Harvard Business School. His mobile wireless infrastructure company Starent Networks was acquired by Cisco Systems in December 2009, and he is now president and CEO of another mobile technology company, Altiostar Networks.
Shamim Dahod isn’t the only BU alum in the family, and in fact the Alumni Center would be an appropriate spot for a future family get-together: one of the couple’s daughters and Ashraf Dahod’s sister have BU degrees. A niece graduated from MED and one son-in-law is a second-year student there; their other son-in-law, a cardiologist, did his residency at Boston Medical Center.
Brown says he sees a metaphorical tie in the physical connection of the alumni center to the admissions reception building next door, the Alan and Sherry Leventhal Center, which won a preservation award in 2015. That connection will provide handicapped access to the Castle via the Leventhal elevators
“Usually the first building a prospective student enters is the Leventhal Center,” Brown says. “Having the alumni and admissions centers side by side and physically connected shows that there’s much more to joining this community than the four years of on-campus experience—it physically symbolizes the lifelong connection of our students to the University.”
Hall says plans for the Castle include a four-season patio and an expanded menu for the BU Pub as well as enhanced kitchen and catering facilities for event catering and a revived faculty and alumni lunch program on the first floor.
The project is designed by the Boston firm Finegold Alexander Architects, Inc., which also designed the upcoming second phase of the Kilachand Hall makeover.
The 26-room Tudor Revival Castle, at the corner of Bay State Road and Granby Street, was built in 1915 by businessman William Lindsey, Jr., as a home for his family. In January 1939, Oakes and Blanche Ames, then the owners, sold the mansion, along with most of its furnishings, to BU trustee William Chenery (Hon.’38), who donated the house to BU, which used it as the home of its president. BU Presidents Daniel Marsh (STH’08, Hon.’53) and Harold Case (STH’27, Hon.’67) lived in the mansion with their families until it became a University function facility in the late 1960s. More recently, it has appeared in the films The Social Network (2010) and Ghostbusters (2016).
Renovation costs for the building were originally estimated at about $8 million, with $5 million to be raised from alumni. But additional costs associated with a century-old structure, including replacement of the slate roof, have pushed the total past $9 million.