Murray State celebrates the completion of a 20-year project

Nick Bohannon/The News

Story by Katlyn Mackie, Staff writer 

An estimated 200 people gathered on Oct. 27 to attend the dedication ceremony for the new Engineering and Physics Building to commemorate the completion of the newest facility on Murray State’s campus and recognize those involved in its development.

“Today, we celebrate the newest addition to the Murray State University campus,” President Bob Davies said. “This facility is a true and impressive addition to the Gene Wells Rae science campus.”

The 81,000 square foot facility opened in August and completes the Gene Wells Ray Science campus footprint on Murray State’s campus. The building was financed with $30 million in state funding and $5 million in private donations.

The building houses the university’s Institute of Engineering, which includes about 600 students in the University’s engineering, engineering technology, physics, mechanical design and telecommunications systems management programs. There are also 31 faculty and five staff members. The Institute of Engineering was previously in the Blackburn Science Building.

Danny Claiborne, chair of the Institute of Engineering, said Murray State is the only university in Kentucky accredited by both the Engineering Accreditation Commission (EAC) and the Engineering and Technology Accreditation Commission (ETAC) on the same campus. The EAC has been accredited for over 20 years.

“We are convinced this provides strong academic pathways for our students and a critical supply of graduates to our corporate partners for regional economic growth and development,” Claiborne said.

The building has state-of-the -art technology and laboratories including a high bay engineering systems lab, a rapid prototyping center and functional student spaces for engineering design projects.

Claiborne said the new building will help students accomplish tasks that they haven’t been able to do before.

“[The building] is not only going to help us do the theory and the analysis behind the engineering and physics we are actually going to do engineering like design, economic analysis and testing and building in the lab,” Claiborne said.

Steve Cobb, dean of the Jesse D. Jones College of Science, Engineering and Technology, said the building gives students outstanding preparation for their careers and graduate studies. He said it is pleasing to be able to offer these kinds of experiences to students.

“Engineering education is much more project oriented now than it was a decade ago,” Cobb said. “Rather than just having classrooms to operate out of, you need laboratory spaces where groups can collaborate – where you can design, build, test and characterize whatever your innovative technology might be.”

At the ceremony, Claiborne said the important variable in making the Institute of Engineering great is students, faculty and staff.

“As many administrators and as many new facilities that we have on campus, if we don’t have quality faculty and good staff, [learning] is just not going to happen,” Claiborne said.

Claiborne also recognized the institute’s corporate partners, Dell EMC and US Didactic, as critical support structures. Dell EMC contributed computers to the labs and US Didactic helped develop the building’s thermal fluid lab.

Davies said this building wouldn’t be possible without support from state legislatures and generous contributions from corporations, donors and alumni that helped make this building come to life. One of these donors was Jesse D. Jones, a distinguished alumnus and one of the speakers at the event.

Also in attendance was Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton. Hampton has a degree in industrial engineering from Wayne State University and expressed enthusiasm in the offerings of the new building.

“It has been a joy to watch the evolution of engineering and technology and computers and to still be a part of it,” Hampton said. “I share the excitement here today with this facility. This is worldclass.”

Others in the crowd recognized by Davies for their support include some current State Legislatures, Mayor Jack Rose, multiple members of the Murray City Council, members of the Murray State Board of Regents, the Murray State Board of Directors, faculty and staff from the Jesse D. Jones College of Science, Engineering and Technology and many others.

“This is truly a wonderful milestone in the history of Murray State,” Claiborne said. “This new engineering and physics building represents to some almost 20 years of commitment to this project and the results of their hard work is finally here. This is a remarkable facility.”