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Oct. 1, 2003

Purdue computer science completes fund raising for new building

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. Purdue University announced today (Wednesday, 10/1) that all private funds have been raised for construction on a new building that will play a key role in educating tomorrow's computer experts.

Martin C. Jischke and Heddy Kurz
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The $20 million facility will allow the Department of Computer Sciences to concentrate its classrooms, faculty offices and laboratories into two buildings rather than the five currently used. Purdue President Martin C. Jischke said the new building will expand the university's ability to educate leaders for the new economy.

"Purdue ranks first in the country in graduating information technology specialists," he said. "Computer science is an integral part of educating that group, and providing a better home for the department will mean Purdue can contribute more to the state and national economy."

The new facility will be located on the corner of Third and University streets, currently the site of a parking lot. Construction on the 100,000-square-foot building is tentatively scheduled to begin next year, with completion in time for classes in fall 2006. Today's celebration took place in the Elliott Hall of Music.

Dept. of Computer Sciences
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Jeffrey Vitter, the Frederick L. Hovde Dean of the School of Science and member of the computer sciences faculty, said the facility will assist with Purdue's goal of creating a universitywide community of scientists, engineers and technologists that can work together to solve problems.

"Many of us on campus envision an infrastructure that allows our specialists to collaborate on complex problems," Vitter said. "Computers are a vital part of that infrastructure, and the specialists that can help us create such a community can be better developed by a well-housed computer science department."

The new building will be home to:

• 4 classrooms;

• 7 instructional laboratories;

• 5 research laboratories;

• Meeting rooms; and

• Offices for 20 faculty and approximately 120 graduate students and staff.

Interior view
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Of the $20 million cost, $7 million was raised privately and the remainder is expected to come from the state of Indiana. State funding is expected to clear its final hurdle this spring.

Susanne Hambrusch, department head, said the building's impact will not be limited to the computer science department.

"Collaboration is the key to the increasingly interdisciplinary nature of contemporary research and education," she said. "While computers are well-known for helping far-flung individuals work together, sometimes there's just no substitute for face-to-face contact. It is virtually essential that scientists from different departments have a place to gather."

Tim Korb, assistant department head, said the building will have facilities to make such collaborations happen.

"There are plans for a number of meeting rooms, something we have in short supply," he said. "Our department will be in a much better position to host conferences, which is often how potential graduate students and faculty find out about us."

Korb said the building's facilities will enable the department to welcome and attract new talent, not only because prospective colleagues can gather in one place, but because they can see what sort of office and laboratory space will be available to them.

"When prospective faculty and students visit the campus, they want to see what their potential work environment would be," Korb said. "It is possible that if a visitor compared our current facilities with those at other research institutions, she might opt to go elsewhere. The new building will provide space for the kind of community the department needs."

Equally important, Korb said, is room for the computers such a community requires. Without adequate space for hardware, it becomes difficult to take full advantage of it.

"We are not always able to compete for a large equipment donation," Korb said, "because in some cases, we simply don't have room for it."

The new laboratories will have space for more computer hardware, and the increased space will allow the department to organize the labs around particular research themes.

"Individual research groups will now have labs wholly dedicated to their specialty," said Hambrusch. "If you are studying databases or computer graphics, for example, and there is overflow in your group's space, you often are forced to work in other groups' areas, such as the language or networking specialists. With the new facility, our groups won't be as fragmented, and that kind of breathing space should increase the quality of both research and instruction."

That sort of news impresses undergraduates like Gagan Gujral, who said the space will be used for activities beyond formal instruction.

"We have several computer-oriented student groups that have a hard time finding meeting space," said Gujral, a junior in the department. "It will be easier for the undergraduate and graduate student boards and the Association for Computing Machinery if they had regular meeting places, and more organizations might spring up as well. It's going to create a better sense of community."

Some groups, such as the Computer Science Women's Network, are working toward increasing the presence of underrepresented minorities in the field. Vitter said he hopes the increased space will encourage their efforts.

"It's important to get everyone with the necessary talent turned on to computer science," he said. "If we can make every group feel at home with the idea of working with computers, then our society will be able to use its high-tech tools to benefit everyone."

An increase in lab space might also mean that undergraduates would have more research opportunities, which is increasingly necessary to impress future employers and graduate school acceptance boards.

"Right now, we have perhaps 40 of our 750 or so undergrads doing research," said Buster Dunsmore, a professor in the department. "That number could conceivably double or triple with the new building."

Dunsmore said that Purdue's corporate partners and other potential employers also will have an easier time finding appropriate students for internships and jobs, as the building will have ample room for career fairs and interviewing sessions.

"Visits are diluted nowadays because when company reps show up, they have a hard time making contact with students," he said. "Many important companies recruit here on campus – Lilly, Microsoft, IBM and Lockheed Martin all show up here regularly – and we'll soon have a better environment for them and our students to meet."

Hambrusch said the building would have been impossible without the generous support of private donors. The top 10 donors among the 430 individuals and organizations who contributed were:

• An anonymous donor, $4.7 million.

• Heddy Kurz, Louisville, $2 million deferred gift. The donation is in memory of her husband, Herman Kurz, who earned his degree in electrical engineering from Purdue in 1925. Both she and her husband were children of German immigrants who worked to support their families. Herman never forgot the education he received at Purdue, and the couple bequeathed a significant portion of their estate to the maintenance and upkeep of the university's science and engineering facilities. The gift also will also endow a fund to buy and maintain instruments for Purdue's "All-American" Marching Band.

Heddy Kurz will receive a Distinguished Pinnacle Award at the ceremony. The award is Purdue's highest recognition for leadership and philanthropic contributions.

• Mike Farmwald, Palo Alto, Calif., $1 million. Farmwald is a Silicon Valley computer engineer and entrepreneur who has founded six high-tech companies. He earned a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Purdue in 1974.

• Tellabs Foundation, part of Tellabs, a communications infrastructure builder based in Naperville, Ill., $300,000.

• Eli Lilly and Co., a pharmaceuticals company based in Indianapolis, $150,000.

• Kevin and Suzanne Kahn, Portland, Ore., $100,000. Kevin Kahn is a fellow and director of the communications and interconnect technology lab at Intel. He received his doctorate in computer science from Purdue in 1976. Suzanne Kahn received her bachelor's degree in nutrition from Purdue in 1974.

• Steve and Janet Tolopka, Portland Ore., $100,000. Steve Tolopka is director for strategic technology programs at Intel. He received his doctorate in computer science from Purdue in 1981. Janet Tolopka is associate analyst for city-county government in Portland. She received her master's degree in math from Purdue in 1978.

• Don and Barb Swanson, Naperville, Ill., $100,000. Don Swanson is president of dcVAST, an information technology service company. He received a bachelor's degree in industrial engineering from Purdue in 1969. Barb (Lyons) Swanson received a bachelor's degree in pharmacy from Purdue in 1970.

• Eric Dittert, Portland, Ore., $100,000. Dittert is a software architect at Intel. He received his doctorate in computer science from Purdue in 1982.

• Jack and Ruth Chappell, Concord, Mass., $100,000. Jack Chappell is a retired board chair of Affiliated Community Bancorp of Waltham, Mass. He received his bachelor's degree from Purdue's School of Science in 1950. Ruth Chappell received her bachelor's degree from Purdue's School of Consumer and Family Sciences in 1951.

• Curt and Caroline Worsey, West Lake Village, Calif., $65,000. Curt Worsey has worked as a consultant since his recent retirement from Accenture. He received a bachelor's degree in computer science from Purdue in 1980.

Writer: Chad Boutin, (765) 494-2081,

Sources: Susanne Hambrusch, (765) 494-1831,

Hubert "Buster" Dunsmore, (765) 494-1996,

Tim Korb, (765) 494-6184,

Gagan Gujral,

Martin C. Jischke, (765) 494-9708

Jeffrey Vitter, (765) 494-1730

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;


Purdue President Martin C. Jischke embraces Heddy Kurz as Purdue's "All American" Marching Band serenades her. Kurz and her late husband, Herman, a 1925 Purdue graduate, bequeathed $2 million toward the construction of a new building that will house the Department of Computer Sciences. The couple also has given $800,000 for the purchase and maintenance of instruments for the band. (University News Service photo/David Umberger)

A publication-quality photograph is available at

The $20 million facility for the Department of Computer Sciences will concentrate classrooms, faculty offices and laboratories into two buildings rather than the five currently used. The new facility will be located on the corner of Third and University streets. Construction on the 100,000-square-foot building is tentatively scheduled to begin in 2004, with completion in time for classes in fall 2006.

A publication-quality rendering is available at

Plans for the interior of the new Department of Computer Sciences facility call for space for classrooms, instructional and research laboratories, meeting rooms, and offices for faculty and graduate students and staff.

A publication-quality rendering is available at