Listen to this article

SPRINGFIELD — A noted University of Illinois engineering alumnus who funded a major addition to the aging Mechanical Engineering Building has expanded his gift and will now see that building carry his name.

The Sidney Lu Mechanical Engineering Building is one of several naming actions up for approval by the UI Board of Trustees in Springfield today, including the proposed Grainger College of Engineering.

Sidney Lu, chairman and CEO of Foxconn Interconnect Technology, has contributed $21.5 million toward the $41 million Mechanical Engineering Building project, which includes additions and renovations that will expand the building by nearly 50 percent. The project, which began this month, will transform the 1950s-era space into a modern building with instructional labs, "maker spaces," community areas and active-learning classrooms. Construction is expected to wrap up in August 2021.

Lu, who earned a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering and math in 1981, donated $12 million in 2015 to fund the addition, to be called the Sidney Lu Center for Learning and Innovation. He recently agreed to provide another $9.5 million.

"This project had been a dream since the '80s," and Lu's gift made it possible, said Professor Tony Jacobi, head of the Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering.

"The impact on the department is going to be profound, not just because of the new space for our students that's going to facilitate collaborative and hands-on activities, but it's really going to form the heart and soul of the department," he said.

The new section will have "social spaces where people can relax and interact," and large lecture halls will allow the department to host big-name lecturers, Jacobi said. Previously, those had to be moved to other campus buildings.

"Hopefully, we have planted the seed for learning, for innovation and for collaboration," Lu said.

Lu and his two brothers, Nicholas and Christopher, each left their home in Taiwan to attend the UI. Sidney Lu earned 58 credit hours in his first year, almost twice as many as a typical freshman.

"I'm grateful to Illinois," Lu said. "I learned hard work here, and I learned how to learn."

He also thanked his mother, Tungchao Julia Lu, for having "the foresight to bring the kids here for a great education," he said.

Honoring Paul Magelli

The naming of the Grainger College of Engineering recognizes more than $300 million of support from The Grainger Foundation since 1987, including a recent $100 million unrestricted gift. A separate resolution on the agenda honors 1918 UI graduate William W. Grainger and the engineering supply company and foundation he created.

"This will be the single biggest investment in a public engineering school in the country, ever," UI President Tim Killeen said Wednesday, congratulating campus leaders and college faculty for sustaining that relationship over the years.

The board will also vote on an item naming the Micro and Nanotechnology Lab after emeritus engineering Professor Nick Holonyak, a pioneer in the field of semiconductors who created the first visible LED, among other discoveries.

And the UI wants to name the Office of Experiential Learning at the Gies College of Business after longtime administrator Paul Magelli, who died in 2016. The office provides opportunities for business students to apply what they've learned in the classrooms to real-world problems.

Magelli earned three degrees at Illinois and worked there from 1989 until his death at age 85, as assistant dean of the MBA program, associate dean and director of budgets and visiting professor of economics. He was instrumental in creating what became Illinois Business Consulting and the Academy for Entrepreneurial leadership.

In other business

— Trustees will consider several agreements that will allow the UI's Urbana campus to reassume control of the Research Park from the UI System, where it has been reporting since 2003.

The UI Research Park was launched in 2000 as a project of the Urbana campus, but its scope was expanded to Chicago in 2003. Attempts to work with the Illinois Medical District and the UI Chicago to create a similar park there never materialized.

With the creation of the new Discovery Partners Institute and the statewide Illinois Innovation Network, both led by the UI System, it makes sense for the Urbana campus to oversee the Research Park, administrators said. The Research Park will be a "hub" on the innovation network, along with others in Springfield, Chicago and at other Illinois public universities.

The change has been endorsed by the Research Park's board of managers and the Urbana campus leadership.

The UI Board of Trustees will still appoint members of the Research Park's board, which will now include two faculty members from the Urbana campus. Chancellor Robert Jones is recommending Gies College of Business Dean Jeff Brown and College of ACES Dean Kim Kidwell for those positions.

Two new appointees from the private sector, both UI alumni, will also be considered by trustees today: Scott Rose, a financial trader with INTL FC Stone Inc. and Rose Investors; and Wilbur Milhouse, chairman and CEO of Milhouse Engineering and Construction.

— Trustees will vote on a $7 million cost increase for the Demirjian Park soccer and track complex, bringing the total cost to $21 million.

Reporter/Columnist

Julie Wurth is a reporter covering the University of Illinois at The News-Gazette. Her email is jwurth@news-gazette.com, and you can follow her on Twitter (@jawurth).