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Groundbreaking held for new SPEA expansion

  • Jan. 27, 2016

Editor's note: This story from The Bloomington Herald-Times is being published here as a courtesy for readers of IU in the News.

By Michael Reschke

The crowd of about 150 people inside the Indiana University Auditorium lobby laughed as IU President Michael McRobbie acknowledged the obvious during the groundbreaking ceremony for the School of Public and Environmental Affairs’ new graduate center.

“It will be, as I’m sure you can see, a symbolic one,” he said, standing in front of four shiny shovels pushed into a box of dirt.

It’s clear to anyone walking down 10th Street between Fee Lane and Jordan Avenue that ground —and concrete — has already been broken in preparation for the Paul H. O’Neill Graduate Center. Construction began in August, but university administrators, faculty and students marked the coming of the new space Tuesday beginning with free hot chocolate in the school’s atrium early in the afternoon. That group was then invited to walk outside for a photo in front of the school before construction crews build a 34,000-square-foot, three-story addition to the building.

The graduate center will be built with limestone and feature a glass curtain wall facing 10th Street. It will include a 2,300-square-foot student commons area as well as classrooms, meeting areas and faculty offices. The project is expected to cost $12 million, with $3 million coming from the graduate center’s namesake.

O’Neill is a former U.S. secretary of the treasury and chairman and CEO of Alcoa. He earned his master of public affairs degree in 1966 from IU and was awarded an honorary doctor of humane letters degree in 2014. In 1967, he joined the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, serving as deputy director from 1974 to 1977. In addition to serving as secretary of the Treasury under President George W. Bush, O’Neill held leadership positions in the business and nonprofit sectors. He was president of International Paper and chairman of the RAND Corp.

David Wang, founding chairman and member of the SPEA Dean’s Council, also helped fund the project with a $1 million donation. Wang is the former senior operating partner of Atlas Holdings, former executive vice president and board member of International Paper and former director of corporate development as well as vice president and general manager of the Union Carbide Corp. He has also served as a trustee of the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center, Eisenhower Fellowships, Southern Poverty Law Center and the Naples Philharmonic Center.

Dean John Graham thanked Wang and O’Neill for their donations during his speech, and explained why the new center was so badly needed. Founded in 1972, SPEA is the largest school of public administration and public policy in the United States. It is second in the U.S. News & World Report’s ranking of master of public affairs programs, and first among public universities. It’s this reputation that has made the school so popular and caused it to outgrow its current facilities.

Graham, who is also faculty adviser to the IU Ballroom Dance Club, said the school is trying to glide over a crowded dance floor.

“We can’t glide if there’s no room to move,” he said.

Starting in early 2017, Graham, as well as the school’s faculty and students, will have a lot more room to move.