Alumni and longtime Washington University supporters Nick and Barrie Somers have made a significant commitment to the university for long-range capital needs. In recognition, the Psychology Building — which houses the Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences in Arts & Sciences — will be named Somers Family Hall.
“We are exceptionally grateful to Nick and Barrie for this incredible gift,” Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton said. “The Somers family legacy is one of great friendship and generosity to the university, and we could not be more pleased to honor the Somers name by placing it on a prominent and appropriate campus landmark.”
“This is a tremendous contribution that will benefit one of our finest academic departments,” said Barbara Schaal, dean of the faculty of Arts & Sciences and the Mary-Dell Chilton Distinguished Professor. “Somers Family Hall provides space to our faculty for their groundbreaking research, as well as the exceptional teaching and mentoring they provide to our students at all levels. Nick and Barrie have always been wonderful supporters of the university and Arts & Sciences, and I am so grateful to them for this gift to support important facilities on our campus.”
Nick and Barrie Somers met while students in Arts & Sciences and graduated together from Washington University in St. Louis in 1984. Nick, who currently is managing partner and founder of SV Investment Partners and serves as principal owner and executive chairman of Minneapolis-based International Decisions Systems Inc., earned his undergraduate degree in economics, followed by a master’s in business administration from the University of Chicago. He serves as a member of Washington University’s Board of Trustees.
Barrie Somers earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology, and she said her studies have enriched her life. “I have always loved learning about what people are thinking and what motivates them,” she said. “I used my education in psychology when I worked in advertising, and I continue to use it to this day.”
The couple’s deep roots at the university extend to their two daughters, who also graduated from the university, one in 2013 and one in 2016. Additionally, Barrie’s father, B.A. “Dolph” Bridgewater Jr., has been associated with the Board of Trustees since 1983, and her mother, Barbara, has served on the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts National Council for three decades.
“We’re a WashU family. We’re locked in,” Nick Somers said. “Barrie and I started dating when we were at the university, and our daughters cemented our loyalty to the institution. Since our daughters’ graduations, we have intensified our engagement, and we contribute however we can.”
Nick and Barrie Somers have strong connections to the psychology department. Their daughter Payton earned her degree in psychology, like her mother, and she works as a mental health therapist in San Francisco. Their daughter Caroline “Kiki” resides in Los Angeles, where she is studying to be a counselor in the health and wellness field. William, the youngest of the Somers children, attends Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., where he is majoring in economics and statistics.
In addition to their recent commitment for Somers Family Hall, Nick and Barrie Somers made a gift in 2013 to name the Somers Family Economics Suite in Seigle Hall. They also have supported annual scholarships in Arts & Sciences for two decades and endowed the Bridgewater Family Scholarship in Arts & Sciences. They have served on the Greater New York Executive Committee for Leading Together: The Campaign for Washington University and the Parents Council. In addition to his duties as a trustee, Nick Somers is a member of the Arts & Sciences National Council and the New York Regional Cabinet. Barrie serves as a member of the Sam Fox School National Council.
Opened in 1996, the Psychology Building was designed by the architectural firm of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill of Chicago, the same firm that designed Chicago’s famed Willis (formerly Sears) Tower. Its original construction cost was $28 million, and a $5 million addition in 2006 increased its size by 16,500 square feet. Within its current 120,000 square feet, the building contains four levels of laboratory space, seminar rooms, classrooms, faculty offices and lounges.
A formal dedication of Somers Family Hall will be held May 3, 2019.