Austin E. Knowlton building not deterred by COVID-19


The coronavirus pandemic has shut down and slowed many things but not the construction of the Austin E. Knowlton building. The new STEM building will be completed for the Spring Semester classes. The Austin E. Knowlton building will house the departments of computer science, physics, and engineering.

Ellen Zegarra, the Assistant Vice President of Philanthropy and Strategic Engagement, referenced the timeline for this project. “The building will be completed towards the end of November early December and then ready for classes to begin when students return January. With taking extreme safety precautions and managing the project very well we’ve remained on target,” said Zegarra.

The Austin E. Knowlton Foundation, headquartered in Cincinnati, has funded many other universities and scholarships across the country. “The Center for Philanthropy and the President’s Office had had a relationship with the Austin E. Knowlton Foundation and they had been funding scholarships for several years and President Helmer made a request and an offer for the naming opportunity on the building and that is how that partnership was formed,” said Zegarra.
The late Knowlton attended Ohio State University where he majored in architectural engineering. Knowlton owned his own construction company. His foundation looks to encourage students to follow their educational endeavors and to help the universities committed to teaching those students.

This project has been in the works for years now. Funding sources were identified as early as 2016 then the drawing plans were in 2016-17, and the ground breaking was last year, said Zegarra.
This new building will include top notch facilities so that the students have all the resources they need for their educational endeavors. It combines new ideas from various industry leaders. “Between the technology and the space its just really phenomenal for the university,” said Zegarra.

The building received money from many donors outside of the Austin E. Knowlton Foundation, said Zegarra. “OEC is one of our major sponsors, they’ve named the forum lobby space of the building. They made a $1 million contribution. We’ve had support from the Harding Foundation, Lincoln Electric, First Energy, and the many individual private donors as well,” said Zegarra.

Professor Catherine Lane of the Mathematics Department explained the importance of this new space. “For me personally, what I am most excited about is the new classroom that will be used for the math education courses. Currently, the materials that I use are in a storage room and I must pull them and take them to the classroom whenever I want to use them. This does not allow for spontaneity. In the new building, there will be a classroom with built-in storage for all the materials. This will allow more flexibility within a class session,” said Lane.

Dr. Brent Strunk, the math department chair, shared the importance of this building for the Math department as a whole; “We are also excited about holding our Emeritus Speaker Series talks in the new building. Those talks give us a chance to invite back alumni to talk about the opportunities their math degrees have created for them in business and industry. Knowlton Center will be a wonderful new setting for these talks, and for students to enjoy the lunch that is provided as part of those talks.”