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Thursday, December 09, 2021

New engineering laboratory hosts its billionaire namesake for ribbon-cutting ceremony

The building cost $72.5 million to build between Fall 2016 and Fall 2019

<p>UF Provost Joseph Glover, Dean of the College of Engineering Cammy Abernathy, Herbert Wertheim and UF President Kent Fuchs (left to right) cut the ribbon at the Herbert Wertheim Laboratory for Engineering Excellence, Wertheim&#x27;s namesake, on Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021.<br/></p>

UF Provost Joseph Glover, Dean of the College of Engineering Cammy Abernathy, Herbert Wertheim and UF President Kent Fuchs (left to right) cut the ribbon at the Herbert Wertheim Laboratory for Engineering Excellence, Wertheim's namesake, on Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021.

Donning his iconic red cowboy hat, Herbert Wertheim, the billionaire namesake of the latest addition to the College of Engineering, cut the ribbon for the new building just north of the Reitz Union. 

The dedication ceremony took place the morning of Oct. 7 in front of the new engineering building, which cost $72.5 million. UF put down $7.2 million while the College of Engineering invested $9 million for the building’s construction and Facilities Services gave $4.6 million for infrastructure upgrades. Public Education Capital Outlay, a state program, provided $28.4 million, while the rest came from an unknown donor, who donated $23.3 million.

The building sits at the end of the Reitz Union North Lawn, contrasting UF’s traditional brick halls with steel and concrete beams. Windows line its expanse, which is big enough to fit two football fields. It began to host classes this Fall after construction finished in 2019, according to Helen Goh, director of marketing and communications for the College of Engineering.

The building is meant to give a centralized location to the College of Engineering, which spans across campus. It comes equipped with a 3D printing lab, a state-of-the-art conference room that can video chat with as many as 54 people across the globe, a graduate student study room and an office for Wertheim complete with a red-leather chair.

President Kent Fuchs attended the event and said the building’s unique look symbolizes the historic yet constantly evolving purpose of providing education to make a difference in people’s lives.

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Herbert Wertheim, UF Florida Entrepreneurship Collective President Oluwaseyi Oluwaleimu and UF President Kent Fuchs (left to right) attend the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Herbert Wertheim Laboratory for Engineering Excellence, Wertheim's namesake, on Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021.

The building is dedicated to all engineering faculty, students and those impacted by the college, such as the companies that hire graduates to solve society’s critical issues, said Goh.

Fuchs told a story of when Wertheim, who he knows as “Herby”, came to check on the construction of the building. Fuchs joked it was impossible to stick to a schedule because of Wertheim’s endless questions about the site, the building materials and the programs that would be hosted there. 

“The Herby spirit and the spirit of this Wertheim Laboratory, which we all know, is the spirit of curiosity,” Fuchs said at the ceremony.

Wertheim provided a donation of $50 million to the College of Engineering, which kicked off a campaign that raised $300 million for the college. 

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Herbert Wertheim delivers a speech during the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Herbert Wertheim Laboratory for Engineering Excellence, his namesake, on Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021.

The speakers also included Dean of the College of Engineering Cammy Abernathy, Chair of the Department of Engineering Education Hans Van Oostrom, and UF Florida Entrepreneurship Collective president Oluwaseyi Oluwaleimu. 

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Oluwaleimu, a 21-year-old UF computer science senior, spoke at the ceremony about his own path in engineering. In his freshman year, he began a sticker-printing company called Alemora which catalyzed his involvement with the tech community in Gainesville. 

He earned enough income through his sticker business to pay for his classes at UF through the tools the engineering college gave him. He emboldened engineering students to take advantage of the facilities provided by the college, just as he did on his way to success. 

“We're here standing in front of this new 84,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art building that's here for students,” Oluwaleimu said. “But if we don't actually utilize the tools we're being given, then we leave a lot of potential on the table.”

Contact Allessandra at ainzinna@alligator.org. Follow her on Twitter @ainzinna.



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Allessandra Inzinna

Allessandra is a third-year journalism major with a minor in English. In the past, she has covered local musicians and the cannabis industry. She is now the Student Government reporter for The Alligator. Allessandra paints and plays guitar in her free time. 


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