The Healey Family Student Center is a part of the original New South Residence Hall. New South Hall is a first-year student dorm that opened in 1959, and its name is due to its placement as the southern most building on the main campus at the time of its completion. University President John J. DeGioia lived in New South while a student.
The name reflects the oldest Georgetown building, which had been called "Old South," and was located near New South's location. New South's cafeteria was completed in February 1960, and at the time was the "biggest non-military food service in the Washington area.” In 2003 the dining hall was closed and replaced by neighboring Leo J. O'Donovan, S.J. Dining Hall. The old cafeteria space was converted into room for dance classes called "Deep South," though many proposals for its use were made.
Conversations began in 2001 about the conversion of the old dining hall into a myriad of different options for students on campus. Plans for office spaces and tech centers were interim options, but the end goal for the eventual renovation of the space was to convert the old dining hall into a new “living room” on campus for students to be able to collaborate, socialize, and reflect.
In 2010-2011, the Georgetown University Student Association (GUSA) Finance and Appropriations Committee undertook a multi-year process to change the way student activity funding at Georgetown served to support student life. Beginning in 2001, the Student Activity Fee paid by all undergraduate students partially funded an endowment account intended to keep fees low in future years. In 2010, GUSA sought input from the student body on a plan to change this fee structure and allocate the endowment account to projects that would benefit all students in the immediate future. This process of Student Activity Fee Endowment (SAFE) Reform would demonstrate student commitment to the resources needed to transform student life on campus and pave the way for the creation of the Healey Family Student Center, and specifically Riverside Terrace.
The second phase in the SAFE Reform process took place in 2011 when students representing major campus organizations turned to the question of what to do with the existing endowment funds. After an intense series of meetings, forums and presentations, students on the GUSA-appointed Endowment Commission recommended funding three primary projects, most notably the renovation and restoration of Healy Hall basement to its former status as a student pub in service of increasing the amount of student space on campus. While this was determined to not be a feasible project, the process galvanized student commitment to ensuring that a portion of the endowment added to student space on campus and put students at the center of the conversation about campus space. Following a campus-wide referendum in which the student body overwhelmingly supported the recommendations put forth by the Endowment Commission and GUSA, more than $2 million was granted to the Healey Family Student Center, specifically to fund the addition of Riverside Terrace, an outdoor area previously not included in plans for the center.
Through the Endowment Commission process, other commitments were made to the Healey Family Student Center, including increasing the project scope to include space on the ground and first floors, central involvement by students in the development of the building design and features, and the creation of a student advisory committee to oversee planning for the center. The result is the center opening in the fall of 2014 incorporating sustainable elements, maximizing square footage, and featuring beautiful design, inside and out.