PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) - Brown University has received $44 million as a down payment on construction of a new home for its three-year-old School of Engineering, the school announced Wednesday.
The bulk of the new money is a combined $35 million from two donors: Theresia Gouw, a managing partner at venture-capital firm Accel Partners who graduated from Brown in 1990, and Charles Giancarlo, a managing director at private-equity firm Silver Lake Partners and former Cisco executive who graduated from the university in 1979.
Brown is seeking to raise a total of $160 million over the next few years to expand its engineering program, which dates back to 1847 but only become a full-fledged school in 2010. In addition to new buildings, the money would expand the engineering faculty from 45 to 60 and increase its graduate enrollment by 50%, Engineering Dean Lawrence Larson said.
"It's a very, very exciting day for Brown and for the School of Engineering," Larson told reporters. He said the school is focusing in particular on four areas: medical technology, energy and the environment, information technology and entrepreneurship.
Brown currently has 305 undergraduates and 150 graduate students enrolled in the School of Engineering, which ranked 48th on U.S. News & World Report's list of top engineering schools for graduate students this year.
Brown will need 100,000 gross square feet of additional space as well as "extensive renovations" to accommodate the engineering school's growth, and the university has decided the school will remain on College Hill rather than move to the Jewelry District, according to Russell Carey, Brown's executive vice president of planning and policy.
"We don't want to disrupt the interconnections with other classes and departments by moving engineering away from College Hill," he said.
Brown will build the engineering school's new facilities within the borders of its current campus and won't seek to acquire any additional property for the project, Carey said. Brown will need to get approval from the Providence City Plan Commission for the new construction.
"We know there are limits to the space on College Hill, so we want to make sure we use it well," said Marisa Quinn, Brown's vice president of public affairs. University officials have met with Gov. Lincoln Chafee, Providence Mayor Angel Taveras and other local leaders to brief them on their plans, she said.
"We hope to make it better for Brown, but also better for the neighborhood, with more green space and better permeability," Quinn said.
Brown is planning to redevelop the current engineering complex centered around the 48-year-old Barus and Holley Building at the corner of Hope Street and George Street, according to Carey. He singled out the two-story Prince Laboratory, built in 1962, as the "best example of space that could be better utilized."
Brown's internal rules require the school to raise at least half the money required in a fundraising campaign - in engineering's case, $80 million - before hiring architects to begin designing new facilities. Carey said he hopes the school will reach that goal by the end of this year, though he declined to forecast when construction might begin.
Carey argued that the decision to expand the engineering school on College Hill is not a sign Brown is scaling back its commitment to the city's much-hyped Jewelry District, where its medical school is located. Carey noted that Brown has spent $200 million in the district over the last 10 years and now has about 1,000 people there.
Target 12 reported in January that Brown was considering the abandoned Dynamo House for the School of Engineering. "It's an important project," Quinn said Wednesday of the Dynamo House. "We'd like to see it [developed]. There's probably no one who wants to see it as much as Brown."
Larson said the engineering school is seeking to expand its partnerships with companies in Rhode Island and New England to share its researchers' findings and give its students practical experience. "We're committed to an outward-facing view of the School of Engineering to the local business community," he said.
Larson said he's enthusiastic about the academic and practical work being done by Brown's engineering faculty and students. "If we think about the big problems in the world today, many of them are technological in nature," he said.
Gouw, the 1990 graduate who made one of the major donations announced Wednesday, has given hers in honor of Barrett Hazeltine, Brown's legendary engineering professor emeritus who joined the school in 1959 and teaches entrepreneurship. Hazeltine is now 80 years old but still teaches two classes each year and working from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, according to Larson.
"He's just a force of nature," Larson said.
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