LSU announces $2 million donation

Computer science majors will have more modern equipment, mechanical engineering students will have extra space and future chemical engineers will have added opportunities to experiment when LSU’s planned $100 million renovation of Patrick F. Taylor Hall is completed.

The university’s College of Engineering announced Tuesday a $2 million donation from the family of Roy O. Martin and RoyOMartin, an Alexandria-based lumber, timber and land company, that should put LSU a step closer to finishing those renovations.

The entire effort has been christened the “Breaking New Ground” campaign. The goal is to turn the existing 36-year-old building into a state-of-the-art engineering education complex to train the next generation of students.

Gov. Bobby Jindal, whose father and wife are engineers, has thrown his support behind the project, which he said should help LSU reach “its full potential” as a nationally recognized research institution.

In describing the current facility as “structurally depleted,” the governor told the assembled crowd of fundraisers, faculty and administrators at a news conference about his history with the building — including a short stint between 2000 and 2001 when he was an adjunct professor teaching health care-related courses at LSU.

Jindal spoke about being a child and tagging along with his father, Amar, a civil engineer, when he visited the building. Later, the governor spoke about visiting the building with his wife, Supriya, a chemical engineer, when she had work to do there.

The state Legislature in June approved $50 million in funding for the renovation with the understanding that LSU would finance the rest of the construction with $50 million in matching funds.

LSU has so far raised about $30 million including the gift from the Martin family and a $15 million donation from Phyllis M. Taylor, chairwoman of the Patrick F. Taylor Foundation, which supports educational projects, military and law enforcement causes and other nonprofits in the state.

In a state currently in the midst of a manufacturing boom, the renovation could be a crucial step to help the state meet the demand for job-ready engineering graduates.

Curt Eysink, executive director of the Louisiana Workforce Commission, estimates that the state will need 6,000 additional engineers and more than 15,000 contractors through 2014.

For LSU, the renovation is widely seen as necessary to keep pace with the country’s other research-focused institutions.

Roughly 625 students earn bachelor’s degrees from LSU’s College of Engineering every year, putting the school in the top 10 nationally.

The renovated engineering facility should more than double its size from roughly 168,000 square feet to about 350,000 square feet. It will include new laboratories for teaching and research, expanded areas for student services, an academic support center, and several new spaces for graduate and undergraduate students. Construction is supposed to start in the fall of 2014. The entire project is scheduled to be finished in 2017.