CORVALLIS - A $3 million gift from an Oregon State University engineering alumnus and his wife launches the renovation of an historic engineering building on campus that will be renamed in their honor, and also marks the half-way point in the university's campaign to raise $180 million in private and public funds to build its college of engineering into one of the top 25 in the nation.
OSU civil engineering graduate Lee Kearney and his wife, Connie, who live in Vancouver, Wash., and have served as co-chairs of the College of Engineering's Top-25 Campaign since its inception in 1999, said they have been waiting for the right giving opportunity to present itself.
"We've watched other alumni step forward and make significant financial contributions to the Top-25 Campaign and have always planned to make a gift at some point," said Lee Kearney, who is also a member of the College of Engineering's advisory board. "Because this will help fund the renovation of Apperson Hall, which is where I took almost all of my civil engineering coursework, Connie and I felt that this was the right opportunity at the right time."
In addition to pushing the College of Engineering's fundraising drive past the $90-million mark, the Kearney donation is the lead gift for a planned $8 million renovation of historic Apperson Hall, which will be renamed Kearney Hall. It will house OSU's nationally leading Construction Engineering Management Program and the Kiewit Center for Infrastructure and Transportation, one of the college's top research clusters.
"The generosity of the Kearneys will help transform a grand old building into a modern educational and research facility that is top-25 caliber," said Ron Adams, dean of engineering at OSU. "Our civil engineering program is becoming one of the nation's best, and this state-of-the-art home will propel it to the next level.
We're anticipating a great response from our alumni and friends to fund the remaining giving opportunities in Apperson Hall."
The historic exterior of the stone façade building will be retained, while the interior is renovated into modern laboratory and classroom spaces and updated to meet current seismic regulations.
The Kearneys hope their gift will encourage other potential donors to follow their lead and contribute to OSU's drive to build one of the best engineering programs in the country.
"During the past few years, we've watched Dean Ron Adams put together a team of department heads and faculty who have a vision for excellence and are already demonstrating success," Lee Kearney said. "We hope our gift will inspire others to contribute to the Top-25 Campaign and help build a great engineering school here at Oregon State University."
Lee Kearney graduated from OSU in 1963, retiring after a 32-year career at one of the nation's largest construction firms, Peter Kiewit Sons', Inc., where he served as division manager and on the board of directors. While at Peter Kiewit Sons', Inc., Kearney personally hired more than 50 OSU engineering graduates.
Shortly after retirement in 1997, he spearheaded a fundraising effort among OSU alumni affiliated with the Kiewit company that raised $1.6 million to establish at OSU the Kiewit Center for Infrastructure and Transportation, the research cluster that includes the world's largest tsunami wave basin and the National Center for Accessible Transportation.
Connie Kearney attended OSU from 1961 - 1963 where she met Lee Kearney, then graduated from the University of Washington and later earned a law degree from Creighton University and practiced law, specializing in poverty and juvenile law. She recently joined the board of trustees at the OSU Foundation.