02/20/2008 08:00:00

Bechtel Gives Personal Donation to Annenberg Center

PASADENA, Calif.--Stephen D. Bechtel, Jr., has awarded $1 million to the California Institute of Technology in support of the final stages of construction of the Walter and Leonore Annenberg Center for Information Science and Technology.

Caltech plans to raise $31.5 million for the project. The Annenberg Foundation donated $25 million toward the construction of the approximately 50,000-square-foot building, which will serve as home to participants of the IST initiative, an interdisciplinary research and instruction program that addresses the growth and impact of information in nearly every field of science and engineering. Caltech sent a proposal to the S. D. Bechtel, Jr., Foundation, founded by Bechtel in 1957, for part of the remaining money needed for the project, but Bechtel has chosen to provide the money himself.

Bechtel, a Life Trustee of Caltech, says, "The school is one of the top educational institutions worldwide, producing outstanding leaders in both engineering and science."

"The collaborative opportunities provided by the Information Science and Technology initiative will support Caltech's effort to find solutions for many of our country's challenges," adds Bechtel. "I'm honored to be a partner in this effort."

The building, designed by the Los Angeles architectural firm Frederick Fisher and Partners, will bring together individuals from a variety of academic divisions at Caltech, to foster the collaboration, interdisciplinary research, and teaching that are intrinsic to this emerging academic discipline. Caltech president Jean-Lou Chameau says the center is one of his highest priorities.

"It will be groundbreaking research on the many ways in which information is central to, and integrated within, the myriad complex systems that make up our world," says Chameau.

The Annenberg Center will include several small classrooms, an 80-seat lecture hall, and a large instructional computer lab, as well as studio and office space for IST professors and students. These spaces characterize the collaborative nature of the new building. A two-story lounge, designed to attract people from different research areas, offers a setting for reading and conversation. Most offices and studios will face an atrium that will also span two floors. This area will function as another informal gathering space. An outdoor area with electrical power, wireless access, and seating will be used for receptions, impromptu discussions, and even small classes.

In recognition of Bechtel's contribution to the construction of the Annenberg Center, a conference room on the east side of the ground floor will be named after him. In this space, faculty, postdoctoral scholars, and researchers will meet to discuss and generate the kinds of revolutionary studies that drive the IST initiative. The room will be enclosed by three glass walls through which residents of the building will have the chance to glimpse at top scientists undertaking the challenges of our times.

Bechtel received his bachelor of science degree in civil engineering in 1946 from Purdue University, and a master's degree in business administration from the Stanford University Graduate School of Business in 1948. Noted for his leadership in undertaking "mega" construction and transportation projects both at home and abroad, Bechtel served in the administrations of presidents Johnson, Nixon, and Ford. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, and he served as its chairman for four years.

Founded in 1989 by Walter H. Annenberg, the Annenberg Foundation exists to advance the public well-being through improved communication. As the principal means of achieving its goal, the foundation encourages the development of more effective ways to share ideas and knowledge.

The project strives to achieve a Silver Rating from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System, developed by the U.S. Green Building Council. The LEED program provides a suite of standards for environmentally sustainable construction. The Annenberg Center, which is scheduled for completion in the summer of 2009, will be one of three new LEED-rated buildings on the Caltech campus.

 

Written by Jacqueline Scahill