Purdue Active Learning Center named for engineering alumni Wilmeth brothers

May 7, 2015  


An architectural rendering of the Thomas S. and Harvey D. Wilmeth Active Learning Center.

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — The Purdue University Board of Trustees on April 10 approved naming the future Active Learning Center for two College of Engineering alumni brothers to honor their long-term commitment and generous support of Purdue University Libraries.

The Thomas S. and Harvey D. Wilmeth Active Learning Center will be dedicated in 2017 upon completion of the $79 million classroom-library project, ranked as the university's No. 1 capital project for the biennium since July 2012.

The move to name the entire center for the brothers expands on a previous plan that would have named the new engineering and science library for them.

Once completed, the Wilmeth Center will be the site of 27 collaborative active learning classrooms and will consolidate six engineering and science libraries. The center is expected to 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.

President Mitch Daniels endorsed the naming of the center to honor the Wilmeth brothers for their leadership, vision and generosity.

"It is appropriate to name the Active Learning Center – a library-classroom prototype of the future – after two brothers who personified and exemplified the creative problem solving, ingenuity and entrepreneurship of Purdue engineers," Daniels said.

In May 2014, Daniels hosted a private reception and dinner for centenarian Tom Wilmeth, his family members and guests in recognition of their ongoing support for the Library of Engineering and Science. Tom Wilmeth died in January at the age of 101.

"The Wilmeth family has had a long-term commitment to Purdue Libraries, and their gifts affirmed that commitment," said James L. Mullins, dean of libraries and Esther Ellis Norton Professor. “They recognized the vital need for active and lifelong learning and the important role libraries have to achieve that goal.”

The Wilmeth 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.

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 him 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.”

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, Purdue’s 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 of those two buildings began 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 Wilmeth Active Learning Center.

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

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