[caption id="attachment_64797" align="alignleft" width="300"] An $8 million gift will allow Dominican University to transform Meadowlands Hall into a state-of-the-art educational facility.[/caption]

SAN RAFAEL -- An $8 million gift to Dominican University of California -- the largest in the 122-year-old college's history -- will fund the transformation of an historic Victorian mansion currently owned by the university into a state-of-the-art facility for students in the school's rapidly growing nursing and occupational therapy programs, according to an announcement today from the San Rafael-based institution.

The donation, from San Francisco restaurateur and developer Rolf Lewis and his family, will allow renovation of the 30,000-square-foot Meadowlands Hall, currently used for university offices and meeting space. The building will house the departments of Nursing and Occupational Therapy, providing classroom, research and laboratory space.

The renovation will triple the square footage available to the programs, which currently occupy five buildings on campus and one off campus. The Department of Nursing is Dominican's single largest academic program, with 500 undergraduate and graduate students. The Department of Occupational Therapy is one of the fastest-growing departments, with an enrollment of 190 graduate and undergraduate students.

"Nursing and occupational therapy are helping professions," said Mr. Lewis, in the announcement. "When I considered what a gift like this could do -- helping not only Dominican students but also the thousands of lives they touch throughout their careers -- the decision was easy."

Mr. Lewis has also served on Dominican's board of trustees since 2011 and established a scholarship program to support the school's nursing students last year. The $8 million gift includes an offer to match up to  $2.5 million from future donors.

The 124-year-old mansion was constructed for San Francisco Chronicle Publisher Michael de Young in 1888 for $7,880. Mr. de Young sold the building to the Dominican Sisters of San Rafael for $10 in 1918.

"Meadowlands was Dominican's first significant gift," said Dominican University President Dr. Mary Marcy. "Appropriately, Meadowlands is the focus of our largest-ever gift."

The building served as the college's first dormitory hall and was named as a building of historical importance by the San Rafael Cultural Commission in 1977. It is the university's second-oldest surviving structure.

After renovation, the three-story building will maintain its historic appearance. The first floor will be restored, while classroom and laboratory space will be added on the second and third floors. New facilities will include space for medical simulation, allowing students to gain clinical experience in a risk-free environment.

Dominican will introduce a new undergraduate program in public health in fall 2013, as well as California's only graduate program in clinical lab sciences.