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College breaks ground for Engineering Centers Building

ECB groundbreaking

From left: Engineering student Eric Wobig, Secretary of Commerce Brenda J. Blanchard, College of Engineering Dean Paul Peercy, Chancellor David Ward, VISION 2000 Committee Chair Russell J. Christesen, Secretary of The Vilas Trust, Robert B. Rennebohm, and John Bollinger, Dean Emertius.

Flanked by the philanthropists and administrators that helped make construction possible, Dean Paul S. Peercy and Dean Emeritus John G. Bollinger dug the first few shovels full of earth for the new Engineering Centers Building Tuesday, June 20. Thousands of yards of earth will soon be clawed from the site to make room for the $53.4 million facility. Upon completion in 2002, the Engineering Centers Building will provide 135,000 square feet of new space for innovative research, teaching and learning. The first two floors and the mezzanine will be devoted to student activities, including extracurricular organizations and team projects. The remaining space will be devoted to research and teaching in an environment that encourages interdisciplinary activity.

Myers at ECB groundbreaking.

Mechanical Engineering Professor Emeritus Phillip Myers (center) helps dig the new foundation with Peercy (left) and Bollinger (right).

"In the years after World War Two, the space we are standing upon held temporary buildings-created to accommodate a burgeoning GI student population," said College of Engineering Dean Paul S. Peercy. "It was a time of great hope for the country and the university.

"Today, we stand in the same place, with an ambitious set of hopes and dreams-but this time centered on a new generation of students and technological advancements never imagined in the forties. We break ground this day on a facility that will encourage researchers to collaborate and make discoveries across disciplines. It will also be a place where we can create an even stronger learning experience for our students through labs designed for teamwork and the utmost creativity. The Engineering Centers Building is truly an auspicious start to a new century-one that many people helped to make a reality."

Peter Tong at ECB groundbreaking.

Paul S. Peercy, Peter Tong, Janet Tong and John G. Bollinger dig in.

Bollinger, professor of industrial engineering, was instrumental in planning the building and raising the needed funds. He recalled years ago discussing the poor physical state of the engineering campus with Kurt Wendt, engineering dean from 1953-71. "Kurt was the chair of the campus building committee and he was having all sorts of success getting buildings done for other parts of campus—but nothing for engineering. I said we ought to get some of that going on our end of campus. So that's really when the seed for this building was planted-back to that conversation. To stand here today and see the groundbreaking take place makes this just a tremendous day. But I have to admit that what I'm really looking forward to is the ribbon cutting."

Chancellor David Ward cited the Engineering Centers Building as a particularly exciting example of how modern buildings can elevate and inspire our work. "I have seen quite a change across the campus landscape in the past decade, but rarely does a building project align itself this well with the university's future as a leader and innovator," said Ward.

Others addressing those gathered at the groundbreaking included Brenda J. Blanchard, secretary of commerce, State of Wisconsin; Robert B. Rennebohm, secretary of The Vilas Trust, Russell J. Christesen, chair, VISION 2000 Committee and Eric C. Wobig, Engineering Student.

Watch the progress of the Engineering Centers Building Project on the web using CentersCam. The college has set up a camera to take real-time pictures of the project site. Visitors to the site can control the movement of the camera by clicking on the pan and zoom features. The website is located at [August 2002: The current address is].

Special facilities in the student area include:

  • The Myers Student Automotive Center to house the college's car projects, including FutureTruck, Formula Car and Baja Car. The center is funded by a gift from alumnus Fred Mancheski.
  • The Phillips Plastics Discovery Center will provide space for student individual and team project design and construction. This center was funded with a gift from alumnus Robert Cervenka and his wife Debra.
  • The Yu Innovation Laboratory, funded by alumnus Henry Yu, will offer shop and fabrication facilities for students entering the The Schoofs Prize for Creativity, Tong Prototype Prize and other competitions.
  • The Tong Student Leadership Auditorium will provide presentation space for students and was funded by alumnus Peter Tong and wife Janet.

Research facilities:

The remaining space in the building will be devoted to research and teaching in an environment that encourages interdisciplinary activity. Special facilities in this area will include clean rooms on the building's third floor designated for research in nanotechnology. Major donations for this area include:

  • The Oscar F. Gusloff NanoMaterials Laboratory, the gift of alumna Karen Glanert and her husband Paul.
  • The Edwin E. Bryant NanoFabrication Laboratory, the gift of the Edwin E. & Janet L. Bryant Foundation.

The new Department of Biomedical Engineering, which in addition to its own faculty draws researchers from several other engineering departments and the School of Medicine and Public Health, will move into the building.


Flad and Associates, Madison, Wisconsin
Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates PC, New York, New York
GPR Planners Collaborative, Inc., Purchase, New York
Affiliated Engineers, Inc., Madison, Wisconsin


General Contractor: J.P. Cullen & Sons, Inc., Janesville, Wisconsin
Plumbing: Hooper Corporation, Madison, Wisconsin
Mechanical (HVAC): Downey Inc., Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Electrical: Staff Electric Company Inc., Madison, Wisconsin