Louisiana Tech celebrates final plans for $8.2 million biomed building

05/11/04

Gala also honors man behind history of biomedical engineering

RUSTON -- Louisiana Tech celebrated final plans Saturday, May 8, for a new Biomedical Engineering Building and announced that $1.9 million had been raised to add a wing.

The gala also honored the man behind the history of Tech's biomedical engineering program, Tech President Dan Reneau, and his wife, Linda.

Reneau, Tech's 13th president, established the pioneering biomedical engineering program in 1972 when he was a professor of chemical engineering.

"Dr. Reneau's vision and leadership launched the biomedical engineering program and continues to motivate faculty, not just in biomedical engineering, but in all the disciplines," said Dr. Stan Napper, interim dean for Tech's College of Engineering and Science.

Dr. Les Guice, Tech's vice president for research and development, said the new facility will keep Tech competitive in recruiting faculty and students and will also reinforce its foundation of world-class research and instruction.

"This is further evidence of Dr. Reneau's long-term commitment in building both the human and physical infrastructure to make this a great institution," Guice said.

The new building, one of the few approved in the recent capital outlay budget, has received approval at $6.3 million; 22,000 square feet were added to original plans, bringing the total to 52,000 square feet and the price tag to $8.2 million. Grants and gifts are funding the addition.

The new building will sit next to the Institute for Micromanufacturing on the main campus. An enclosed walkway called "Collaboration Alley" will link the two buildings.

The first and second floors of the biomed building will house labs, meeting rooms, incubator space for business and technology, and room for offices and shared equipment. The third floor will be left unfinished to allow for growth.

Mike McCallister, president and CEO of Humana Inc., was keynote speaker for Saturday's event. The Tech alumnus has been instrumental in providing more than $2 million in support for Tech through the Humana Foundation in recent years, including an eminent scholar chair, endowed professorships and a scholarship fund.

Humana and McCallister also provided the lead gift for the new building through a $350,000 challenge grant.

Reneau used Saturday's occasion to recognize others who had key roles in making the new building possible.

He cited the local state delegation of senators and representatives; the congressional delegation in Washington, D.C., including Rodney Alexander; the Louisiana Board of Regents and the University of Louisiana System Board of Supervisors, including Bob Levy, Wayne Parker and David Wright; ULS President Sally Clausen; and Ruston businessman James Davison.

Also on Saturday, two eminent scholar "super chairs" for the biomed program were announced at $2 million each.

Jim and Dana Bernhard of Baton Rouge are donors of one chair to be named in honor of Dan and Linda Reneau; Bernhard is chairman and CEO of The Shaw Group, a Fortune 500 company, and his wife is the Reneaus' daughter. The Shaw Group was a sponsor of the gala, along with Aramark.

Reneau also announced a planned gift by Opal Rhodes of Houston that will establish the Herman Rhodes chair in biomedical engineering in memory of her Tech alumnus husband, a microwave pioneer. She has also made a substantial gift to the new building and has made planned gifts to support Tech's biomedical engineering program.

A gift from Tech biology graduate George Roy Hayes Jr. of Shreveport was recognized. Hayes has also made a large planned gift to support the biological sciences.

Among the many other alumni and friends making gifts was biomed alumnus Roger White of Louisville, Colo.

Corporate support from Humana Corp., Tidewater, The Shaw Group and others was also recognized.

Also on Saturday, the Louisiana Tech Engineering and Science Foundation announced a $300,000 gift to the project.

"Dr. Reneau's ability to garner this kind of support is unsurpassed," said Bobby Rawle, Tech's director of research development. "His vision for something that would serve the university, state and nation for decades to come was just contagious. He made everyone want to be a part of it."

Construction on the new facility is expected to begin during the next academic year. The biomedical engineering and rehabilitation science programs are currently housed off-campus in the old Ruston Hospital.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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