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Obert donation improves undergrad study area

The Department of Mechanical Engineering's main lobby and student study area have a totally new look -- thanks to financial contributions from the late Professor Edward F. Obert.

Obert, who died in 1993 at the age of 83, had a special regard for undergraduate students and specifically wanted to upgrade their study place in the ME building. He also bequeathed funds for a scholarship, magazine and newspaper subscriptions, honorary society program fees, student tutoring programs, and local and regional functions for the students.

ME lobby artwork

Posing in front of the new artwork are Helen Whitman-Obert, widow of the late Professor Edward Obert, and ME lecturer Frederick T. Elder, a former graduate student of Mr. Obert and executor of his estate. (large image)

Having served as ME department chair from 1963 to 1967, Obert retired in 1976. He was best known by his students and colleagues as a teacher who had high standards and principles, according to ME lecturer Frederick T. Elder, who as a graduate student worked with Obert. "He was a champion of undergraduate education and a mentor to many students," Elder added.

The newly renovated and redecorated lobby will be dedicated Wednesday, March 18, at 12:45 p.m. Special guests will be Helen Whitman-Obert, widow of the late professor, and Marko Spalatin, the artist who created two large and striking murals that have been installed at each end of the study area. The murals are a special gift of Whitman-Obert to enhance the other interior work funded by the professor's legacy.

Artist Spalatin's murals are the newest of several he has done on the UW campus, including one hanging in the UW-Foundation building on University Avenue. Based in Blue Mounds, Wisconsin, Spalatin has an international reputation and clientele. Ms. Whitman-Obert commissioned him for the ME work after admiring his geometric and colorful earlier canvases.

Other ongoing changes to the ME building include moving vending machines to a separate room; updating furniture, carpeting, and lighting; and adding additional study lounge spaces and study carrels with computers.