Purdue University broke ground Saturday on its newest engineering building and announced it will name the facility after its most famous alumnus, Neil Armstrong.
"I can't imagine a more fitting name for this building that not only will serve as the gateway to our internationally recognized College of Engineering but also its School of Aeronautics and Astronautics," said Purdue President Martin C. Jischke during Homecoming celebrations. "The Neil Armstrong Hall of Engineering will be engineering's crown jewel, worthy to bear the name of the first person to walk on the moon."
And a bit of the moon will also come to Purdue. Martha Chaffee, whose husband Roger was one of two Purdue alumni to die during a simulated test for the Apollo I mission, will give a moon rock to be housed in Neil Armstrong Hall.
Jischke also announced Saturday that Caterpillar Inc., one of the world’s leading manufacturers of construction and mining equipment, diesel and natural gas engines and industrial gas turbines, is giving Purdue $5 million, a portion of which will complete the private fund raising needed to start construction of the $47.7 million facility.
Other leading donors to the building include Purdue alumni Stephen D. Bechtel Jr., Kenneth O. Johnson and Heddy Kurz, whose late husband was a Purdue alumnus. Many of Purdue's surviving astronaut alumni made gifts or had gifts made in their honor.
The naming of the building, which earlier had been informally known as the Millennium Engineering Building, is subject to approval by Purdue's Board of Trustees. The new facility will be built near the southeast corner of the intersection of Northwestern and Stadium avenues at the site of the four recently razed visual and performing arts buildings.
"I'm pleased we could announce this at Homecoming, recognizing the leadership of our corporate partner Caterpillar and the scores of alumni and friends who have contributed to this fantastic opportunity for our students, our state and our nation," Jischke said.
"The Neil Armstrong Hall of Engineering is one of the cornerstones of Purdue's strategic plan and the university's commitment to remaining at the forefront of engineering research and education. And it will be an impressive anchor at the north entrance to the academic campus."
In addition to the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics, the new building will house the School of Materials Engineering and the Department of Engineering Education. The building also will be the home to a variety of engineering programs, including the Minorities in Engineering Program, Women in Engineering Program and Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS).
The facility also will include space for the office of the dean of engineering.
The new facility is part of the college's plan to increase the size of the engineering complex by 60 percent and improve existing facilities for teaching, research and engagement.
"I am immensely honored that a Purdue building will carry my name, but my role is merely symbolic," said Armstrong, who was unable to attend the event. "I believe it truly recognizes the many Purdue alumni who have been, and are, the core of the U. S. aerospace industry. Just as the university did when it launched one of the nation's first aeronautical engineering programs almost 80 years ago, Purdue is taking a bold step into the future with this new building.
"Purdue prepared me, like so many others, for a career and a life that have been deeply satisfying. I am very proud to be a Boilermaker."
Armstrong earned a bachelor's degree from Purdue's School of Aeronautics and Astronautics in 1955. He was selected for astronaut training in 1962, and in 1969 commanded NASA's Apollo 11 mission, which landed the first humans on the moon.
Several of Purdue's alumni astronauts attended Saturday's ceremony and were recognized for their contributions to the university, which has graduated 22 men and women who have been selected for space flight.
Martha Chaffee is acquiring the moon rock through NASA's Ambassadors of Exploration program. The NASA program allows each astronaut, or his survivor – from NASA's Gemini, Apollo and Mercury programs – the right to donate to the educational institution of his or her choice a piece of the 842 pounds of moon rocks and soil collected during six lunar missions.
"Roger and I met at Purdue, so it seemed like the natural place for this part of him to be," said Martha Chaffee, who was a student in Purdue's radio and television program. Roger Chaffee earned his bachelor's degree in aeronautical engineering from Purdue in 1957.
"With our ties to the university and Purdue's strong connections to NASA and space exploration, there was no question in my mind," she said.
The sample will likely be displayed in the atrium area of the Neil Armstrong Building, said Linda P.B. Katehi, John A. Edwardson Dean of Engineering.
Caterpillar's $5 million gift is made up of $2.5 million for three learning modules in the new building. It also includes $1 million for the School of Mechanical Engineering's Product Engineering and Realization Laboratory, as well as $1 million for programs for recruitment, retention and K-12 initiatives for diversity in the College of Engineering, School of Technology and Krannert School of Management.
With 2003 sales and revenues of $22.76 billion, Caterpillar is one of the world's largest recyclers, remanufacturing more than 100 million pounds of used iron every year into remanufactured engines, transmissions and hydraulic components.
Although this is Caterpillar's largest gift to the university, the company has a long history of giving to Purdue. Many of its earlier gifts have helped fund activities in the College of Engineering, as well as in the agriculture, management and technology schools. Caterpillar has been particularly supportive of Purdue’s efforts aimed at increased student diversity.
Company representatives also serve on several Purdue advisory committees, including the School of Mechanical Engineering, Freshman Engineering and Continuing Engineering Education.
Among its more than 70,000 employees, Caterpillar employs more than 500 Purdue alumni, of whom approximately 45 percent are engineering graduates. The company, in addition to its other locations around the world, operates its Large Engine Center in Lafayette, employing about 1,400 people.
Purdue leveraged $37.7 million in state funds to raise an additional $10 million in private gifts for the Armstrong project. In addition to the $2.5 million from Caterpillar, these gifts also include a $1 million leadership gift from alumnus Bechtel Jr. personal foundation.
A 1947 Purdue graduate in civil engineering, Bechtel serves as chairman emeritus of Bechtel Group, one of the nation's largest engineering and construction companies. He was named president of the company in 1960 and became chairman in 1973, holding both positions until 1990. While under his direction, Bechtel guided the company into an era of "megaprojects," large-scale projects in fields like nuclear power, transportation, defense and environmental protection and clean-up.
He began his education at the University of Colorado in 1943 but transferred to Purdue where he received a bachelor's degree in civil engineering. He earned an MBA from Stanford University and has been awarded honorary doctorates from Purdue and the University of Colorado.
Bechtel has served under presidents Johnson, Nixon and Ford in six federal appointments and, in 1991, President George H.W. Bush presented him with the National Medal of Technology, the nation's highest honor for technical achievement.
Bechtel was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1975, and from 1982-86 served as its first president. He has received many prestigious awards in the field, including the Herbert Hoover Medal in 1980; and both 1982 Chairman's Medal and 1997 National Engineering Award from the American Association of Engineering Societies; and the Founders Award from the National Academy of Engineering.
In ceremonies last year, Purdue honored Johnson and Kurz. Johnson, of Cincinnati, is a 1950 graduate of the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics who gave a $1 million gift to this project. Kurz, whose late husband, Herman, earned a degree in electrical engineering from Purdue in 1925, gave $1.9 million.
Kurz also as given Purdue $2 million toward the construction of its new $25 million computer science building and the purchase and maintenance of instruments for the Purdue "All-American" Marching Band.
The College of Engineering also received gifts for Armstrong Hall from, or in honor of, many of the 20 living astronauts with degrees from Purdue. To recognize their gifts and commitment to Purdue, the propulsion laboratory inside the new facility will be named in their honor.
"We are fortunate that at a time of economic challenges, both the state legislature and Purdue's alumni and friends have had the vision to support the College of Engineering's efforts to develop facilities to match the expertise and talent of our students and our faculty," said Dean Katehi. "This commitment to engineering will not only help our students and the companies they work for but also is vital to Indiana's economic success. Armstrong Hall will serve as a gateway to that exciting future."
Ground has already been cleared for the building, and construction is expected to start this spring. The building is scheduled to be completed by May 2007.
The 125,000-square-foot building will include more than 20,000 square feet dedicated to research labs and more than 60,000 square feet of undergraduate teaching facilities, including discipline-specific design labs. In the classrooms, it will feature learning spaces that facilitate student teamwork, especially for design work, one of the most important facets of engineering education.
The Caterpillar Inc. Learning Modules in Neil Armstrong Hall will support research and hands-on learning experiences, and classrooms will be located adjacent to labs and discussion areas in order to facilitate small-group work. Katehi said these "team-learning modules" will give students a more integrated educational experience, as well as easier access to the tools needed for classroom and lab assignments.
In addition to improving undergraduate education, the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics is focusing on strengthening and investing in its core areas, such as aerodynamics, structures and materials, dynamics and control, and propulsion, Katehi said.
The space provided by Armstrong Hall will allow the School of Materials Engineering to double the undergraduate and triple the graduate enrollment to 125 and 90 students, respectively, she said. Faculty size also will grow to accommodate the increase in student numbers and to position the school as a leader in materials research, particularly in the fields of processing, manufacturing and nanoscale technology.
Laboratory spaces will accommodate classes of 12 to 20 students. Since many laboratory courses include discussion and lecture components, the labs will have adjacent space for teaching and group presentations.
"The nature of education and engineering are changing, and the walls between teaching and research are blurring," Katehi said. "By connecting the laboratories and classrooms, we can create more cohesion between the two areas, making engineering research feel more accessible to students."
The new facility also will be the home of the university's Department of Engineering Education, which was created in April as the first of its kind in the nation. Purdue's freshman engineering and interdisciplinary engineering programs also are part of the new department.
Purdue's Department of Engineering Education initially is focusing on research and outreach programs, but officials plan to have a program in place by 2006 that will permit high school teachers to become certified to teach engineering courses at the secondary school level. In addition, teachers will be qualified to teach mathematics, physics and other sciences and have the knowledge to bring engineering concepts into the classroom.
"The engineering education department's position as a central component of Armstrong Hall shows the commitment of Purdue's College of Engineering to this emerging field," Katehi said. "Since freshman engineering is part of the department, all engineering students will come through this new facility as they begin their career in engineering, helping to truly make Armstrong Hall the center of engineering at Purdue."
Private funds raised for Armstrong Hall are part of the $1.3 billion Campaign for Purdue. Saturday's event is part of a 10-day celebration that focuses on ways Purdue is improving education and helping the state of Indiana as part of the university's strategic plan and $1.3 billion fund-raising campaign.
Purdue's College of Engineering is made up of 12 academic programs: aeronautics and astronautics, agricultural and biological, biomedical, chemical, civil, construction engineering and management, electrical and computer, engineering education, industrial, materials, mechanical, and nuclear.
Purdue's College of Engineering includes more than 6,400 undergraduate students and almost 2,500 graduate students. In its most recent rankings, U.S. News and World Report named Purdue the No. 8 undergraduate and graduate engineering program in the country, and many of Purdue's programs were ranked in the top 10 nationally.