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KNOXVILLE — The University of Tennessee broke ground Monday on the new Min Kao Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Building. The building is named for Kao, a UT alumnus and founder of Garmin Ltd.

Kao’s gift of $12.5 million to the construction of the new building for the College of Engineering (COE) remains the largest single gift toward one building in the university’s history, and serves as the cornerstone of a public-private partnership in funding the building.

“We think this new building will bring new heights to the university, and set the College of Engineering even farther ahead,” said UT Knoxville Chancellor Loren Crabtree in remarks at the ceremony.

The 150,000-square-foot building is being built at a total cost of $37.5 million, with the additional $25 million coming in state funds. The building will house classrooms, laboratories, a state-of-the-art clean room facility and a 2,500-square-foot auditorium.

In his remarks, Kao pointed to the transformative nature of his time at UT in beginning his time in the U.S.

“I’m grateful to UT for accepting me as a student and allowing me to start a new life in the U.S.,” he said.

Kao was joined by university leaders and representatives from state and local government in breaking ground on the new building, which is expected to be completed in mid-to-late 2009.

“This building represents a public-private partnership to say to our students, ‘We believe in you, we believe in education, ‘” said Kim McMillan, special adviser to Gov. Phil Bredesen.

Other members of the groundbreaking team included UT President John Petersen, Chancellor Loren Crabtree, Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam, Knox County Chief of Staff Mike Arms, DuPont Corp. Vice President and COE Board of Advisors Chair Jim Porter and COE Dean and University Distinguished Professor Way Kuo.

The building is planned to be the first on UT’s campus built for LEED certification. LEED certification requires using environmentally sound materials, positioning the building to make the best use of natural lighting and using indoor lighting that is both cost- and energy-efficient.

The two architectural firms working on the project, Bullock Smith and Partners and Lindsay and Maples Architects, have worked closely with both the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the Department of Computer Science to create a plan for the six-floor building that includes a soaring atrium, a classroom annex and a spacious deck with a view of downtown Knoxville.

When opened, the building will be home to the two departments, which will merge this summer into the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

Kao said he had been impressed by the college’s leadership in improving educational opportunities in the engineering fields.

“Your dedication gives me high hope for the future of electrical and computer engineering education,” he said.

Kao serves as Garmin’s chairman and chief executive officer. The company is a world leader in Global Positioning System technology. A native of Taiwan, Kao received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the National Taiwan University and a master’s and doctorate degree in electrical engineering from UT.


Jay Mayfield (865-974-9409, jay.mayfield@tennessee.edu)
Kim Cowart (865-974-0686, kcowart@utk.edu)