MSU’s College of Engineering and South Campus project recently received a large donation from a well-known construction mogul. Tim and Mary Barnard of Barnard Construction Companies Inc., a Bozeman based construction and engineering firm, is pledging $6 million to the College of Engineering and the development of MSU’s South Campus. The pledge has been divided with $5 million going to the South Campus construction and $1 million going exclusively to the College of Engineering to be used at their discretion.
The Barnards, although not alumni of MSU, have hired many MSU students from the College of Engineering. According to Traci Weller, senior director of development for the MSU Foundation, “Mr. Barnard’s pledge is a way for him to pay back what the college has done for him and his business. He understands the quality of students that MSU produces.” Of MSU’s recent enrollment growth, 46 percent has been in the College of Engineering.
The remaining $5 million of the Barnards’ pledge will go towards the construction of MSU’s South Campus, which will be located across the street from the SUB. The project includes a parking complex and the Norm Asbjornson Innovation Center (NAIC), a state of the art learning facility geared toward “breaking down the silos between colleges,” essentially closing the communication gaps between colleges and programs of campus.
Norm Asbjornson was born and raised in Winifred and was a 1960 graduate of MSU in mechanical engineering. He is the founder and CEO of AAON, a heating, ventilation and air conditioning company with annual revenues of over $300 million. The Tulsa, Oklahoma based company is also a NASDAQ traded company.
Asbjornson’s vision was to create a learning space where all colleges can come together and collaborate. “You may be majoring in engineering and may not necessarily have ever communicated with someone that is a political science major or a landscape-design major and suddenly you are on a job and you realize there is more to constructing a building. You may have to talk to a political science major to finish a certain building and you need to know how to communicate,” Weller explained. “Everyone should be able to go into this building with the idea of collaboration.”
The Norm Abjornson Innovation Center is a $70 million project and Asbjornson has already pledged $50 million towards the construction, which is the largest private donation in the history of the state. All of this is part of a new “What It Takes” campaign launched by MSU with the goal to raise $300 million by Dec. 31, 2018. “The campaign focuses on three main aspects: people, places and programs,” Weller stated. “People includes money for scholarships,endowments, etc. Places includes the construction of buildings and programs essentially encompasses everything that does not fall into the other two categories.” Including these two donations, thus far the campaign has raised $200 million.
Construction on the Norm Abjornson Innovation Center will begin in fall 2016 and is anticipated to be completed in fall 2018. The parking garage is already underway and is slated to be open for parking in January 2017. The garage will hold a total of 550 cars which will be an increase of 150 total parking spots over those lost due to the construction of the NAIC.