Samuel Ginn College of Engineering breaking ground on $40 million student achievement center

Published: January 30, 2017
Updated: June 21, 2017
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Auburn University's Samuel Ginn College of Engineering will host a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday, Feb. 2, at 1 p.m. to celebrate the construction of the Brown-Kopel Engineering Student Achievement Center.

Construction of the center is made possible through a $30 million gift from John and Rosemary Brown, which was announced as part of an overall $57 million gift–and the largest in university history–in 2015 at the Because This is Auburn — A Campaign for Auburn University kickoff event. Site preparation for the project began in December with the demolition of the Engineering Shops and L Building. Construction is anticipated to be completed by spring 2019. This project will mark the completion of more than $60 million in new construction and renovation on the engineering campus.

"John and Rosemary's transformational gift will enable the college to construct a facility capable of significantly transforming the personal and professional successes of tomorrow's Auburn engineers by providing students with the highest level of hands-on experiences and academic support throughout their college experience," said Chris Roberts, dean of engineering. "Redefining engineering education in a changing world and training engineers inside and outside the classroom is a vital part of our vision. This facility will enable the college to build the infrastructure to make this a reality."

Located in the heart of campus, the center will specifically address students' professional and academic needs, providing one of the most comprehensive, active-learning environments in the country. In conjunction with the college's vision to provide the best student-centered engineering educational experience in America, the center will also create greater opportunities for collaboration among faculty members and fellow students, creating a sense of "home" within the engineering campus.

Designed to serve students from all engineering disciplines, the center will incorporate high-contact initiatives through student recruitment, curriculum advising, career mentoring and placement, tutoring, international experiences, industrial relations and professional development.

Plans for the first floor of the building include a design and innovation center, consisting of student maker spaces, laboratories, shops, project incubators, study rooms, flexible classrooms, computer labs and more, while also serving as the home for engineering student organizations. The second floor will house a tutoring and learning center, academic advising center, student recruitment center, professional development and corporate relations center, the Alabama Power Academic Excellence Program and offices for support staff. The third floor will incorporate spacious student study areas with large- and small-group study rooms, along with boardrooms, conference rooms and auditoriums all outfitted with the latest smart technologies.

Benefactors John Brown and Rosemary Kopel Brown graduated from Auburn University in 1957 with bachelor's degrees in chemical engineering and chemistry, respectively. John began his career with Ormet in 1957 before moving to work with rocket propellants at Thiokol in 1961. From there, John worked with Squibb before taking over as president of Edward Weck & Company. His success at Weck eventually led him to Stryker as its president, CEO and chairman of the board. There, he took the company public and increased revenue from $17 million in 1976 to $10 billion today. Rosemary began her career as a mathematics teacher, a position she held for almost 30 years, and impacted hundreds of students along the way.

In addition to their support of Auburn, Rosemary has also served on many community boards of directors, including Freed Hardeman University, Kalamazoo College, Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, Kalamazoo Institute of Arts and currently with the Atlanta Opera. John has served on the boards of St. Jude Medical and the American Business Conference.

John and Rosemary have demonstrated a strong commitment to Auburn University and the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering throughout their careers, and have been recognized by many organizations for professional achievement and excellence. John is an inductee in the State of Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame and Auburn University's Entrepreneur Hall of Fame, and he also received honorary law degrees from Freed Hardeman University and Kalamazoo College. He is a recipient of the Auburn Alumni Association's Lifetime Achievement Award and was the inaugural recipient of the AdvaMed Lifetime Achievement Award. He has also served on the Auburn University Foundation board and has been recognized by the College of Engineering as a Distinguished Auburn Engineer.

They have remained dedicated and committed partners with Auburn University, supporting scholarships and programs within engineering, science and mathematics, performing arts and veterinary medicine for nearly four decades. The Browns have also endowed an eminent scholar chair in the Department of Chemical Engineering and the first endowed eminent scholar chair in the College of Science and Mathematics. The Browns are members of the College of Engineering's Ginn and Eagles societies, as well as the university's 1856 and Foy societies.

Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 29,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn's commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact. Auburn's mission to educate, discover and collaborate drives its expanding impact on the world.