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Ivory University House celebrates ‘standards housing’

University of Utah sophomore Lily Berhan was worried she wouldn’t find a good match for a roommate.

A returned missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and transfer student from BYU Hawaii, Berhan was looking for a place to live that would accommodate her quiet lifestyle.

She found it in Ivory University House.

One of 123 selected in the first cohort of students to move into the new complex adjacent to campus, Berhan is now a resident advisor, studying microbiology and thriving in the community she said she built from scratch as a transplant from northern California.

“When I came here, I didn’t know a single person. Not one,” she said. “And now, I get to make this place my home and live in a higher way. Just by living here, I get to have friends living the same way.”

Leaders from the Clark and Christine Ivory Foundation, University of Utah and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gathered for a ribbon-cutting and celebration—opening the doors of the privately funded and privately managed building to the public for tours and testimonials from the limited few who call Ivory University House home. The Ivory family calls it “standards housing.”

Ivory University House is a one-of-a-kind collaboration between the Ivory Foundation, the church and the U—housing built specifically for university students that is not run by the institution’s Housing and Residential Education. The foundation is raising four buildings with 621 studio apartments at the corner of Mario Capecchi Drive and South Campus Drive on land owned by the church. The first building—LeGrand Richards Hall, named after a church apostle and grandfather to university benefactor Roger Boyer—opened in August 2023, just in time for students to move in for the fall semester.

The Ivory Foundation has committed to donate all net proceeds annually from the complex to fund strategic initiatives, student scholarships and housing stipends at the university. Foundation leaders estimate the complex will generate up to $1 billion for the U over the 99-year term of the lease. In 2023, the Ivory family jump-started their commitment to President Taylor Randall’s vision of creating “college town magic” with $6 million in seed funding for scholarships, internships and housing stipends.

“Rather than making a one-time donation, we wanted to produce an ongoing gift for student support,” said Clark Ivory. “We are taking a $24 million investment and producing an annuity that will likely generate nearly $1 billion in impact over 99 years. This is the future financial model for supporting higher education.”

Ivory said helping Utah kids get the chance to live on campus is the driving force behind Ivory University House and the Ivory housing scholarships. One in four residents of Ivory University House has a housing scholarship. In the past year, 138 U students have received Ivory housing scholarships.

“Working students have a special place in our hearts,” he added. “We want to make sure they have an opportunity to live here.”

Students who want to live in Ivory House agree to live according to a core value statement, including no drinking alcohol, smoking, vaping or using marijuana; no gambling; and no possession, viewing or distribution of pornography.

At the same time, Ivory University House provides “wrap-around” support services for the students living there, including mental health support, tutoring and wellness coaching. There are music practice rooms and recital areas, game rooms and an art studio; Paint Nights, cooking classes and Sunday night speakers/networking events called “Finding Your Way.” The lobby is decorated with inflatable Halloween decorations. When all four buildings are complete, Ivory said, he envisions tailgating and outdoor activities in the quad.

“This is a partnership that cares about the entire student, that cares about the spirituality, the well-being, the study habits of our students,” said Randall. “That is something that is actually rare with our partners, and we are so grateful for the Ivory family’s approach to this unique student housing—caring for the whole student.”

On Oct. 18, L. Todd Budge, presiding bishop of the church, dedicated the building with a prayer.

“Creating a housing option for students of all faiths, ethnicities and backgrounds to live in an environment consistent with their own personal values will not only improve the well-being of the students but elevate outcomes in the classroom and in the campus community,” Budge said. “There’s a real connection between home, the classroom and the community.”

A second building will open in the summer of 2024. The final two buildings will open a year later.

At the end of the 99-year lease, the property will revert to the church.