Engineering Quad receives new addition from donor

A $7 million, 20,500-square-foot addition to the Newmark Civil Engineering Laboratory was formally dedicated as the M.T. Geoffrey Yeh Student Center at a ceremony Friday.

Many University officials came to the dedication on Main Street in Champaign to speak; in addition to Yeh, speakers included University president Michael Hogan, interim chancellor Robert Easter and Ilesanmi Adesida, dean of the College of Engineering.

Yeh is a University alumnus who received his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in 1953 and contributed $4 million toward the creation of the center. He currently works as a real estate developer and philanthropist in Hong Kong. To honor additional contributors, various rooms were dedicated as well, and they had the honor of cutting ceremonial ribbons outside the classrooms. Yeh had the honor of cutting the ceremonial ribbon outside the center, surrounded by the other speakers.

The Newmark Laboratory was built in the 1960s, and the original plan for the building was to have a separate wing for classrooms. However, there were not sufficient funds and the teaching wing was never completed. Civil and environmental engineering classes were held in buildings all over campus, instead of one central location.

Celeste Arbogast Bragorgos, director of communications for the department of civil and environmental engineering, said five years ago, Robert H. Dodds, one of the professors, said it was the right time to complete the Newmark Lab and began campaigning.

“Now, finally, due to the incredible generosity of the students of yesterday, our alumni, the students of today and tomorrow have a beautiful, state-of-the-art classroom facility,” Bragorgos said.

The Yeh Student Center, which contains classrooms and meeting rooms, provides a “home” to the students of civil and environmental engineering, she said.

“Our alumni recognized that we needed classroom space that reflected the stature and excellence of our department,” Bragorgos said. “They also saw that our students deserved a home on campus where they could study, meet to collaborate on projects and make personal connections that last a lifetime.”

Erol Tutumluer, professor in transportation engineering, said due to the large-scale testing in the Newmark Lab, it had been challenging to spread out and work on various projects.

“I think the student center really helps us from the point of providing us with state-of-the-art classrooms,” Tutumluer said. “We were always missing and lacking classroom space.”

Jon Stricker, freshman in Engineering, utilizes the center’s facilities. He takes advantage of the free printing and group study rooms. Stricker added that he has attended meetings for the civil engineering club in the Yeh center.

“The Yeh center wasn’t something I was expecting coming to civil engineering because I realize civil engineering is just a subsection of engineering, so I didn’t think there was going to be a special building, much less a special center just for students to gather at,” Stricker said. “Overall, it is just a beautifully designed building. It is hopefully a place I will make great use of throughout the year.”

Bragorgos said she thinks that the Yeh student center will contribute to recruiting prospective students.

“We attract some of the brightest, most talented students from the state of Illinois and around the world,” Bragorgos said. “When prospective students visit our campus, they are sure to be as impressed by the Yeh Student Center, as they already are with our other facilities.”