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Office of Vice President and
Chief of Staff
Florida Gulf Coast University
10501 FGCU Blvd S.
Fort Myers, FL. 33965-6565

Phone: (239) 590-1006
Fax:     (239) 590-1066

Press Release


FGCU Breaks Ground on the U.A. Whitaker School of Engineering Building May 16; Completion Scheduled for Fall 2008

FORT MYERS, FL - Florida Gulf Coast University will honor Burtt and Ruth Holmes of Naples with a groundbreaking ceremony for the U.A.Whitaker School of Engineering building 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, May 16 in front of Academic Building V.

The engineering program at FGCU was launched with a $5 million gift from The Whitaker Foundation to build a facility that has been named Holmes Hall in honor of Burtt Holmes, chair of The Whitaker Foundation and his wife Ruth Whitaker Holmes, daughter of U.A. Whitaker. Through their life's work and affiliation with The Whitaker Foundation, Burtt and Ruth made substantial scholarship and philanthropic contributions to FGCU and throughout the nation in support of scientific research and education.

"FGCU prides itself on being an active partner in meeting the economic development needs of Southwest Florida," said FGCU Interim President Richard Pegnetter.

"Our region's economic development councils made it clear that one thing missing from their repertoire was an engineering degree program. FGCU responded by developing plans to bring engineering to Southwest Florida, recognizing that we could not move this important initiative forward without external support to augment state funds. The Whitaker Foundation under the leadership of Burtt and Ruth also saw the critical need for an engineering program at FGCU, and together we have partnered to bring something of tremendous value to Southwest Florida. This groundbreaking is a celebration of an even brighter future for Southwest Florida's economic development because of The Whitaker Foundation's great generosity and vision."

The 70,000 square foot building will house Hole Montes Lecture Hall, a 96-seat lecture hall to be used for classes and community outreach, the Owen-Ames Kimball Company Student Lounge and student club areas, including one named for the Calusa Chapter of the Florida Engineering Society. In addition, it will house classrooms that integrate hands-on endeavors with lectures, discussions and team-based problem solving activities.

"The wonderful generosity of Burtt and Ruth Holmes and The Whitaker Foundation has made it possible for FGCU to design engineering programs that are some of the most innovative in engineering education," said U.A. Whitaker School of Engineering director Susan Blanchard. "The engineering faculty has worked diligently to build curricula and space that will help train engineers to meet the needs of the 21st century. Our vision is to be internationally recognized for excellence in interdisciplinary engineering education. Holmes Hall will help us to achieve that vision."

Construction begins this summer and will conclude in fall 2008. Architects are Schwab, Twitty & Hanser (STH Architectural Group, Inc.) and builder is Kraft Construction Company, Inc. of Naples.

Academic Building V is adjacent to Parking Lot 2. From Ben Hill Griffin Parkway, take FGCU Boulevard, which is the main entrance to the campus. Turn left at the stop sign. For further directions, a campus map is available for viewing at

For more information, media representatives should contact Blanchard at (239) 590-7399.

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