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Ohio University breaks ground on new Academic and Research Center
Facility will foster research collaboration between engineering, medical colleges

Sept. 29, 2007
By Jennifer Krisch and Alison Wayner | Photos by Rick Fatica

In the crisp morning air, a standing-room-only crowd of Ohio University supporters, officials, alumni, friends, faculty and students broke ground on the next addition to campus -- a center designed to provide a natural fusion of modern medicine and engineering.

Photos by Rick FaticaThe scene clearly conveyed "historic moment" as the guests heard about the history and intent of the building and watched as the curtain dropped on its new name: the Academic & Research Center. They also stepped inside the building's footprint, outlined on the West Green where the building will stand, and lept to their feet clapping as Section 8 of the Singing Men of Ohio sang the university fight song.

Board of Trustees Chair C. Daniel DeLawder said the building will unite two colleges in a one-of-a-kind facility that will enhance classroom and laboratory experiences. The academic complex for the Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ College of Engineering and Technology and the College of Osteopathic Medicine is designed to advance research, enhance learning and promote active collaboration among researchers, physicians, engineers, students, faculty and staff.

"Learning is the heart of our academic mission," DeLawder said. "And it is important that we have a facility that can bring together the right people to not only enhance learning, but to advance research and promote active collaboration to take Ohio University to a new level."

Photos by Rick FaticaFaced with a desperate lack of space in their current facilities, each of the colleges' deans expressed their need for new facilities to President Roderick J. McDavis, who -- in the requests -- saw an opportunity to significantly advance the institution's research and prominence. He called a meeting and suggested the two colleges combine forces in one research and learning building.

"In an era in which medical sciences and engineering are merging to create biomedical discoveries every day, an academic facility that takes away boundaries between the two disciplines is the next logical step," McDavis said at today's groundbreaking.

Designed by Columbus-based engineering and architectural firm Burgess & Niple, the $30 million, approximately 100,000-square-foot facility will change the face of Ohio University and the way it facilitates learning. The ARC will combine research and education in 12 medical and six integrated research labs, a number of flexible classroom spaces, special project rooms for students, and a large hangar/garage space for engineering projects and competitions.

The concept and construction of the ARC, which is slated to open in fall 2009, would not have become reality without the generosity of private benefactors -- in particular The Osteopathic Heritage Foundations (OHF) and Russ College alumnus Charles Stuckey and his wife, Marilyn. OHF and the Stuckeys donated a combined $15 million toward construction.

Photos by Rick FaticaRichard A. Vincent, OHF president and CEO, said this remarkable new facility directly ties in with a foundation mission to advance research.

"This facility demonstrates our support for and confidence in President McDavis, the deans and the College of Osteopathic Medicine," Vincent said. "This will advance Ohio University's research mission and help advance the College of Osteopathic Medicine as a significant school in Ohio and the country."

Stuckey's commitment to the new facility was motivated by a desire to advance the university's prominence, recognize the institution's contributions to his own life and help current and future students.

"This building will help to break down the communication and collaboration barriers that exist in higher education. It will break down the discipline silos," he said. "Hopefully this facility will just be one step in enhancing collaboration across the entire university."

The contributions from the OHF, the Stuckeys and more than 75 other private benefactors make the ARC the first building on campus constructed primarily with private funding since Cutler Hall opened in 1819.

"When I first heard that Cutler Hall was the only building to have been built primarily with private dollars, I couldn't believe it," Stuckey said.

In one of the day's surprises, Jimilea Gutheil and her family announced the dedication of a conference room in honor of her husband, Paul, a Columbus-based doctor who was instrumental in OU-COM's creation. Gutheil's children, and a long list of others, have directly benefitted from his contributions to the college: daughter Paige is a 2002 graduate, and Paige's sister Lauren is a third-year OU-COM student.

"It was so exciting to see my dad as honored and surprised as he was," Paige Gutheil said. "He just loves this university."

Added Jimilea Gutheil: "It was difficult to keep this a secret for an entire year. We rendered him speechless, and he's never speechless."

Photos by Rick FaticaAt the ceremony, guests were encouraged to sign cinder blocks that will be used in the construction, which will begin in early January. Guests were treated to a reception and commemorative bricks featuring the building's new name.

Some thoughts shared by those participating in the festivities:

"This is an exciting opportunity to see how far Ohio University students can take biomedical engineering."
-- civil engineering major and Cutler Scholar Ben Jewell

"It's just amazing to see so many supporters rally around an effort that will ensure that OU-COM becomes the premier osteopathic research institution in the country. And it is an honor that we'll be doing this hand-in-hand with the Russ College of Engineering."
-- Jack Brose, dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine

"Instead of having two very good ideas built, we are having one great idea being built."
-- Dennis Irwin, dean of the Russ College of Engineering and Technology

"This is a really exciting project, especially in how it utilizes space. It's great to be here, as an alum and someone who has worked with the building's design."
-- Anna Milligan, a Russ College alumna and employee of Shelley Metz Baumann Hawk Inc., a Columbus-based structural engineering firm.

"It's an honor to be here and witness this very forward-thinking collaboration amongst the colleges. Anything that fosters the bettering of Ohio University is great."
-- David Sybert, one of a dozen members of OU-COM alumnus Daryl Sybert's family to attend.

Visit the project Web site for more on the facility, including a virtual tour, floor plans and information on how you can help.

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