Auburn University hosting dedication ceremony for $44 million Engineering Student Achievement Center

Published: September 10, 2019
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Auburn University’s Samuel Ginn College of Engineering will host a dedication ceremony Friday, Sept. 13, at 3:15 p.m., to celebrate the opening of the $44 million Brown-Kopel Engineering Student Achievement Center.

Construction of the center, located at 152 Wilmore Drive, was made possible thanks to a $30 million gift from Auburn alumni John and Rosemary Brown, which was announced as part of an overall $57 million gift—the largest in university history—in April 2015 at the kickoff event for the Because This is Auburn—A Campaign for Auburn University. Site preparation for the project began in December 2016 with the demolition of the Engineering Shops and L Building. This project completes the third phase of more than $85 million in new construction and renovations for the College of Engineering.

In addition to the Browns’ gift, more than 50 other alumni have donated $17 million toward the project. These gifts supplemented the cost of construction, with the remaining funds dedicated toward endowing programming in the facility.

Prior to the Brown-Kopel Center ceremony, the college will dedicate the Carol Ann Gavin Garden, which connects the Brown-Kopel Center with the newly renovated Gavin Engineering Research Laboratory. This rooftop garden—the largest in Alabama—covers 44,000 square feet of build out space for the wind tunnel laboratory and future instructional use. The garden, which was made possible through a $2.5 million gift from Charles Gavin in honor of his late wife, will be dedicated during a ceremony beginning at 12:15 p.m.

“The Browns’ transformational gift has changed the game for our students and college,” said Christopher B. Roberts, dean of engineering. “John and Rosemary’s investment will allow us to recruit, reward and retain our students in ways we only imagined. Our vision has been to provide the best student-centered engineering educational experience in America, and this facility is a fulfillment to making that vision a reality. We are forever grateful for the Browns’ generosity and commitment to the College of Engineering and to our future Auburn engineers.”

Located in the heart of campus, the Brown-Kopel Center specifically addresses students’ professional and academic needs, providing one of the most comprehensive, active-learning environments in the country. The center also creates greater opportunities for collaboration among faculty members and fellow students, cultivating a sense of home within the engineering campus.

Designed to serve students from all engineering disciplines, the facility incorporates high-contact initiatives through student recruitment, scholarships, curriculum advising, tutoring, career development, corporate relations, international experiences and more.

The ground floor of the building includes an innovation center, which consists of student maker spaces, laboratories, shops and project incubators; a design studio, large and small group study rooms, flexible classrooms, computer labs and more, while also serving as the home for engineering student organizations. The main floor houses suites for student recruitment, scholarships, tutoring, academic advising, career development and corporate relations center, the Engineering Academic Excellence Program and offices for support staff. The third floor incorporates ample, spacious student study areas with large-group and small-group study rooms, along with boardrooms, conference rooms and a Grand Hall 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. In September, Rosemary will receive the Auburn University College of Sciences and Mathematics 2019 Distinguished Alumni Award.

The Browns 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 Sciences 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 with an elite, top-tier Carnegie R1 classification and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 30,000 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.