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‘A game-changer’: Schweitzers donate $20 million to WSU for new engineering building

UPDATED: Wed., April 20, 2022

A rendering of the planned Schweitzer Engineering Hall at Washington State University.  (Courtesy of Washington State University)
A rendering of the planned Schweitzer Engineering Hall at Washington State University. (Courtesy of Washington State University)

A new $20 million endowment to Washington State University will help the school construct a “student success” building for WSU’s Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture, WSU announced Monday.

The $20 million – $10 million from Edmund and Beatriz Schweitzer and the other $10 million from Pullman-based Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories – represents the largest gift ever to the Voiland College and one of the largest in the university’s history.

The new engineering building, which will be dubbed the Schweitzer Engineering Hall, will serve as a “central hub” for engineering and design students to innovate and collaborate with each other and faculty, according to the university.

The building will have classrooms, student collaboration and club activity zones, first-year student engagement studios, senior capstone project design spaces and centers for academic advising, tutoring and career counseling.

WSU is aiming to break ground in 2024.

During Monday’s announcement, WSU President Kirk Schulz said the $20 million is not a gift, but “an investment.”

“An investment in student success of this magnitude is a game changer for the Voiland College and for the entire WSU system,” WSU President Kirk Schulz said.

The Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture has been fundraising for the new building for some time, said WSU spokesperson Phil Weiler.

The Schweitzer endowment comes amid a high demand for engineers, computer scientists, construction managers and design graduates, as enrollment at the Voiland College has increased to just under 5,500 undergraduate students in 2021, up from 4,239 in 2012 and 5,159 in 2016, said Voiland College Dean Mary Rezac.

“However, our ability to continue delivering the very best engineering and design experiences is increasingly challenged by outdated classrooms and learning environments, many of which were constructed or last renovated more than 60 years ago,” Rezac said in a statement. “By design, Schweitzer Engineering Hall will evolve to meet the changing needs of our students and the industries they are preparing to lead for generations to come.”

Before this latest donation, the Schweitzers and Schweitzer Engineering had contributed more than $4.3 million to the university over the past three decades.

A $1.5 million gift in 2017 created the Voiland College’s Edmund O. Scheitzer III Chair in Power Apparatus and Systems, while other bestowments were spread across WSU’s campuses, including to the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine, Northwest Public Broadcasting and international programs, according to the university.

Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories has employed hundreds of WSU graduates over the years, including 450 alumni working for the company today, said Chief Executive Officer Dave Whitehead.

Edmund Schweitzer, founder, president and chief technology officer of Schweitzer Engineering, completed his doctorate at WSU in 1977. He was a former faculty member at WSU and Ohio University before starting Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories in the basement of his Pullman home, according to the university.

“My dad taught us kids that education is the one thing that cannot be taken away from you,” Edumund Schweitzer said. “Property can. Money can. Education cannot.”

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