Toray Commits $2 Million to New URI Engineering Building
Published on March 3, 2014
Toray Plastics America, Inc., the North Kingstown-based manufacturer of polypropylene films and other products, has pledged $2 million toward the proposed construction of new facilities for the University of Rhode Island's College of Engineering. The pledge is the first commitment of corporate support for the $125 million project that Gov. Lincoln Chafee's proposed budget recommends be placed on the 2014 bond referendum ballot.
The pledge is contingent on the passage of the bond referendum by Rhode Island voters in November.
The proposed College of Engineering building is needed because current facilities do not allow for the innovative research demanded by contemporary engineering firms and such research may be leveraged for economic development. It will also accommodate a projected 18 percent increase in student enrollment, for a college that has seen the number of undergraduates grow by about 22 percent between 2008 and 2012.
According to Ray Wright, dean of the College of Engineering, the new building would significantly enhance URI's competitiveness in attracting research opportunities, as well as high caliber faculty and students. "This investment in new state-of-the-art engineering facilities is critical not just for the University but also for Rhode Island and its economy," he said.
The 195,000-square foot building would replace five existing engineering buildings on URI's Kingston campus -- Crawford Hall, Gilbreth Hall, Kelly Hall, Kelly Hall Annex and Wales Hall - all of which opened in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The building would be home for seven of the University's eight engineering programs: biomedical, chemical, civil, computer, electrical, industrial and systems, and mechanical engineering. Six of the seven buildings that comprise the engineering complex have not undergone any major improvements in more than 50 years.
The University of Rhode Island has awarded engineering degrees since 1893. The first class consisted of just five graduates, all in mechanical engineering. Since that era, the University expanded its engineering programs to form the College of Engineering, which currently enrolls 1,316 undergraduate students and 231 graduate students. In addition, the college's award-winning International Engineering Program provides a global perspective, allowing engineers to graduate with bachelors' degrees in engineering and a second degree in one of six different languages.
Engineering faculty members have been awarded 73 patents for their research in the last decade, and more than 4,000 URI engineering alumni live in Rhode Island and work at about 500 companies in the Ocean State.