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Building a Legacy

Exterior rendering of Fitts-Woolard Hall

Engineering students returning to NC State’s Centennial Campus for the fall 2018 semester are seeing quite a different landscape than the one they left in May.

Though heavy equipment was on site at the future home of Fitts-Woolard Hall and grading work had begun when the spring semester ended, the foundation of the College’s newest building is now in place, and the walls that will form a hub for research and teaching collaboration and innovation are rising skyward.

The future home of the Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering (CCEE); the Edward P. Fitts Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISE); and the dean’s administrative offices is scheduled to open in June 2020.

Thanks to the generosity of more than 300 donors and a transformational naming gift from industrial engineering alumni Edward P. Fitts and Edgar R. Woolard (see more on page 18), the College has raised more than $47 million of the $60 million in private donations pledged to help fund the construction of Fitts-Woolard Hall.

With $12.8 million left to raise, though, there is more work to be done. Alumni and friends have a chance to make a gift that will have a lasting impact on thousands of future students who will benefit from all that this iconic building has to offer.

Over the last decade, the College has made significant strides in its national rankings, research expenditures, graduate student enrollment and faculty diversity. At the same time, a long-envisioned plan to move the entire College to Centennial Campus has advanced, giving students and faculty members world-class facilities and a unique collaborative environment. Fitts-Woolard Hall is the next step in that move.

Meeting the $60 million fundraising goal is vital to ensure the College is not constrained with debt as it continues this forward momentum.

“Fitts-Woolard Hall is a crucial component of our plan for the College of Engineering to reach its full potential. We have received tremendous support from the state of North Carolina and our alumni and partners,” said Dr. Louis A. Martin-Vega, dean of the College. “We still have a way to go, and it’s crucial that we reach our fundraising goal and meet the commitment we made to fund construction.”

Opportunity Cost

Fitts-Woolard Hall represents a first-of-its-kind infrastructure project for NC State, using a public-private partnership to fund the construction of an academic building.

The $154 million project received $75 million from the people of North Carolina through a 2016 bond referendum. The NC Legislature provided $2 million, and the University will provide $17 million, with the College pledging to provide the remaining $60 million from private commitments. The College is short of its private commitment goal and will need to meet this goal to avoid having to borrow to fund construction, at a time when interest rates are rising.

This is what happened in 2004 when the College had to borrow $8 million to help fund construction of Engineering Building II, which opened on Centennial Campus in 2006. This 20-year loan has cost the College $600,000 annually to service the debt. The more than $12 million the College has paid could have been invested in student scholarships and educational programs, faculty hiring, research infrastructure or additional things that make the College great.

Having to borrow $12.8 million would represent an even larger opportunity cost since the College would then be facing more than $1.2 million per year in debt service payments for the next 20 years. Just investing this amount in hiring 10 new faculty members could bring in well over $100 million in new research funding to the College and NC State over these same 20 years. These research expenditures directly impact the education of students in the College, providing opportunities to work alongside some of the top researchers in the nation. With fully funded construction, the College could hire those faculty members rather than paying out more than $20 million on a $12.8 million loan.

That’s the power of private philanthropy and the generational impact it can have.

A Benefit to All

Fitts-Woolard Hall will allow the College to move completely out of Mann and Page halls, and allow ISE to move out of its current space in Daniels Hall.

Both buildings are more than 50 years old. It will also become the administrative home of the College housing the dean’s office and the majority of the administrative and development functions that benefit all of the College’s departments and programs. This is why alumni support from all of the College’s departments and programs is crucial.

Once Fitts-Woolard Hall is complete, eight of the nine academic departments and more than 90 percent of the faculty, students and staff will have moved to Centennial Campus, taking the College much closer to its goal of unification on this unique campus. Centennial Campus is a national and international model for how academia, government and private enterprise can collaborate and innovate in a shared space and is a living classroom for students to learn and work in such an environment.

Donors can leave a legacy through several available naming opportunities within Fitts-Woolard Hall. Additionally, alumni of the College’s other seven academic departments can make a naming gift that will benefit Fitts-Woolard Hall but will be recognized in their home department.

As Dean Martin-Vega leads the effort to make the College the top public college of engineering in the country and one of the preeminent colleges of engineering in the world, unification on Centennial will mark a true turning point.

Those who have benefited from an NC State engineering or computer science degree or who know firsthand the impact of its work have a chance to make an impact that will last for generations.

“We need you now more than ever,” Martin-Vega said. “And you can help make that difference.”

Return to contents or download the Fall/Winter 2018 NC State Engineering magazine (PDF, 3MB).

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