NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Gifts of $10 million to the Rutgers University Foundation will name a gateway engineering building that will enhance education, promote research and strengthen ties between Rutgers and New Jersey’s technology-based businesses.
The building will be named the Richard Weeks Hall of Engineering, honoring 1950 alumnus Richard N. Weeks, chairman of Weeks Marine, one of the leading marine construction, dredging and tunneling firms in the United States and Canada. Weeks donated $6 million and another alumnus who has chosen not to be named provided $4 million as part of a challenge grant.
The new 100,000 square-foot facility will be built next to the Biomedical Engineering Building and will be the first academic building that people will see when they enter the Busch Campus from Davidson Road. It will house the School of Engineering’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering as well as laboratories for advanced manufacturing and environmentally sustainable resources and systems.The facility also will host classrooms and collaborative workspaces for students doing research and working on team-based senior design projects.
“This is the first time that the School of Engineering will have a building named for an alumnus,” said Thomas Farris, the school’s dean. “We will tell Mr. Weeks’s story in this building, as well as the stories of other alumni who are leaders in their fields. These stories will inspire our students, showing them how they too can do what Mr. Weeks and others have done with their Rutgers engineering degrees.”
After graduating with a civil engineering degree in 1950, Weeks joined the family business, which started in 1919 as a stevedoring firm – loading and unloading cargo ships. During his time with the company, it grew into one of the largest marine construction, dredging and tunneling organizations in North America, performing such recent high-profile jobs as recovering the stricken US Airways plane that Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger safely ditched in the Hudson River, transporting the Space Shuttle Enterprise by barge from Kennedy Airport to its home at New York’s Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, and dismantling the Seaside Heights roller coaster swept out to sea by Hurricane Sandy.
Farris notes that the building’s name also honors Weeks's father and son, both named Richard. His son, Richard S. Weeks, serves as the company’s president.
“The roots of the Weeks family are founded in the commitments made during the progressive era to provide excellent educational opportunities to all, regardless of their economic circumstances,” said Richard N. Weeks. “My parents, Magdalen Weeks, an orphan, and her husband, Richard B. Weeks, attended the ‘magnet schools’ of their era in New York City – Townsend Harris Hall, Hunter High School, City and Hunter colleges. These experiences are at the foundations of the Weeks family and corporate cultures. Together with many similar family stories, these experiences go to the heart of what makes the United States such a special place.”
“The role of Rutgers in carrying on this legacy is clear,” said Richard S. Weeks. “New Jersey is a state with great diversity, truly a melting pot for those who seek to work hard and seize opportunity. Our family wants Rutgers to be an effective crucible as possible for all these people – a model of what so clearly benefited our family, over and over, beginning over a century ago. One has only to look at the backgrounds of almost all the engineering greats in our history to appreciate what Rutgers does, and why a first class School of Engineering facility is a great investment.”
Richard N. Weeks has been a regular contributor to the School of Engineering, including a 2010 gift that funded a soil and sediment management laboratory addressing environmentally responsible dredging to increase port capacity and accommodate larger ships.
Farris said that the new building, expected to be completed in 2017, will make Rutgers more competitive in attracting talent to the school.
“Having a state-of-the-art facility will speak very strongly to potential students, their parents and the faculty we recruit going forward,” he said. “It will also boost our reputation among New Jersey’s high schools and change the way counselors and teachers encourage their best students to consider Rutgers.”
Farris also notes that the building supports the priority that Rutgers’ strategic plan places on engineering, promoting interdisciplinary research that generates large-scale federal funding. These capabilities also will encourage startup companies and established industries to work with Rutgers on innovations that boost their competitiveness.
The gift is part of the seven-and-a-half-year “Our Rutgers, Our Future” campaign, the largest and most comprehensive fundraising campaign in the university’s nearly 250-year history. The campaign surpassed its $1 billion goal by almost 4 percent when it formally ended on Dec. 31, 2014.
Total private support raised to date for the construction of the new engineering building is $23.8 million.
Instruction in engineering began at Rutgers in 1864, when the state of New Jersey designated the Rutgers Scientific School as the “State College for the Benefit of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts.” The present School of Engineering became a separate entity in 1914, and today it has departments that cover aerospace, biochemical, biomedical, chemical, civil, computer, electrical, environmental, industrial, materials, mechanical and systems engineering. It enrolls approximately 4,500 undergraduate and graduate students and generates more than $60 million in research expenditures annually.
Established in 1766, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, is America’s eighth oldest institution of higher learning and one of the nation’s premier public research universities, educating more than 65,000 students and serving people throughout New Jersey. Rutgers’ flagship, based in New Brunswick, is the only public institution in New Jersey represented in the prestigious Association of American Universities. Rutgers University is also a member of the Big Ten Conference and its academic counterpart, the Committee on Institutional Cooperation – a consortium of 15 world-class research universities.