Purdue Active Learning Center library to bear brothers' names

May 16, 2014  

Thomas S. Wilmeth

Thomas S. Wilmeth 
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - The Purdue University Board of Trustees on Friday (May 16) approved naming the library within the future Active Learning Center for two College of Engineering alumni brothers in recognition of gifts totaling $4 million to Purdue Libraries.

The Thomas S. and Harvey D. Wilmeth Library of Engineering and Science will be dedicated in 2017 upon completion of the $79 million classroom-library project: the Active Learning Center - ranked since July 2012 as the university's No. 1 capital project for the biennium. When completed, the center - and the Wilmeth Library - will be a daily academic destination for 5,000 Purdue students and faculty.

The naming recognizes and honors Thomas S. Wilmeth, who earned his electrical engineering degree in 1935, and the late Harvey D. Wilmeth, who earned his chemical engineering degree in 1940. The brothers founded Scot Industries Inc. in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1949. Tom ran and built the business with seed money provided by the shrewd investments of younger brother Harvey. Scot Industries is the worldwide quality and technological leader in the specialty tubing and bar business. Scot Industries continues to grow as a privately held company with 13 plants worldwide.

"It is appropriate to name the library of the future after two brothers who personify and exemplify the creative problem solving, ingenuity and entrepreneurship of Purdue engineers," said Purdue President Mitch Daniels. "We are grateful to the Wilmeth brothers for their vision and desire to make a lasting impact on the world and in the lives of Purdue students today and tomorrow."

Daniels hosted a private reception and dinner for centenarian Tom Wilmeth, his family members and guests Monday (May 12).

The Active Learning Center will blend and integrate centrally scheduled active learning classrooms, library/information services, formal study spaces, collaborative work areas and informal learning spaces. During the class day, 40 percent of the center will be library/study spaces that, at the end of the class day, during the evening and throughout the night, expand to nearly the entire building. This flexibility of classroom/study/learning space allows for greater building efficiency.

"The Wilmeth family has had a long-term commitment to Purdue Libraries, and their gifts affirm that commitment," said James L. Mullins, dean of libraries and Esther Ellis Norton Professor. "They recognize the vital role of Libraries in the provision of ideal learning space for our students in the Active Learning Center. We are very grateful and appreciative of their support."

Thomas S. Wilmeth was born Oct. 2, 1913. A lifelong entrepreneur, Wilmeth started his first business at age 10. At 16 he enrolled at Purdue. During his senior year, he was the business manager of the Purdue yearbook, Debris. While at Purdue, Wilmeth was a member of Alpha Chi Rho, Tau Beta Pi and Eta Kappa Nu. He graduated magna cum laude at age 21.

Wilmeth's long history of support for the university and Purdue Libraries began in 1991, when he made a contribution to fund Libraries' first electronic database. In 1993 he joined the Libraries Dean's Advisory Council and served for 10 years. 

Purdue awarded Wilmeth an honorary doctorate of engineering information literacy in 2013 in recognition of his understanding and appreciation of the need to use published research outside of academe to advance industrial methods and to create new engineering processes and technological applications. In 2004 he received the President's Council Distinguished Pinnacle Award for his philanthropy to Purdue Libraries.

"My philanthropy always has been intended to offer opportunities to others through the resources and services of the Purdue University Libraries," Wilmeth said. "I believe the essence of education is developing the ability to train and teach oneself to learn. Thanks in large part to the training we received at Purdue, our successes have allowed my brother and me to help others achieve their own success."

Wilmeth attributes the brothers' success to "continual self-education, creative ideas, extraordinary determination, hard work, a little luck and the willingness to take risks."

Though Harvey Wilmeth (1918-2007) graduated from Purdue with a degree in chemical engineering, his true passion was economics and economic theory, his older brother noted.

Harvey founded the original Center for Advanced Macroeconomic Policy at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee following his retirement in 1983 as vice president and economist at the Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. He served as an adjunct professor of economics at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and was awarded an honorary doctorate of economics from UWM in 2006. While at Purdue, Harvey was a member of the Purdue Student Union Board.

The Active Learning Center will be located at the center of the West Lafayette campus just east of the Purdue Bell Tower and southeast of Hovde Hall, the Purdue administration building.

The center will anchor the east end of the Third Street Student Success Corridor on the site of the long-abandoned North Power Plant and the Engineering Administration Building.

Demolition is to begin on those two buildings in June 2014 and will be completed in May 2015. Construction on the Active Learning Center is scheduled to begin in summer of 2015 with completion during the summer of 2017 and occupancy in August 2017.

BSA Life Structures has been retained as the architects for the Active Learning Center. Design work is progressing at this time with schematic design and layouts anticipated by early June.  

Writer: Grant Flora, 765-494-7566, gflora@purdue.edu 

Source: James L. Mullins, 765-494-2900, jmullins@purdue.edu

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