Ribbon-cutting marks official opening of Weisberg engineering complex

About four months after construction ended on the Arthur Weisberg Family Applied Engineering Complex and tenants began moving in, members of the Marshall University family and the community got to see firsthand and up close why the massive facility has attracted so much attention since ground was broken in October 2012.

No one, including Marshall Interim President Gary G. White–who had toured the building before–was disappointed.

“This magnificent facility will provide an unparalleled educational experience for Marshall students for many years to come,” White said. “We are fortunate to have the generous support of the Weisberg family and all those who made this day possible. I wish Art was here to see this dream come true.”

The university and Huntington Aug. 13 celebrated the opening of the 155,000 square-foot, 480-foot long, four-story, $56 million building with a ceremonial ribbon cutting at the complex.

6559Arthur “Art” Weisberg was the president of Huntington-based Arthur’s Enterprises, which made a large donation to help pay for the facility. He passed away in 2012, shortly after ground was broken for the complex. Art’s wife Joan and a dozen members of her family attended today’s ceremony.

U.S. Senator Joe Manchin and U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins also were on hand to help celebrate the milestone. Among the others who spoke at the ceremony were Marshall Provost Gayle L. Ormiston, White, State Sen. Robert Plymale and engineering student Taylor Lipscomb. Art and Joan’s oldest daughter Pam Weisberg spoke on behalf of the family.

Impact on Learning

The imposing new complex features advanced learning environments, teaching/research laboratories, and resources to support undergraduate and graduate programs in engineering, mechanical engineering and bioengineering, computational sciences, environmental sciences, transportation and applied digital/simulation technology. It also houses the offices of the Marshall University Research Corporation. The Marshall Institute for Interdisciplinary Research, currently located in the nearby Robert C. Byrd Biotechnology Science Center, will relocate to the complex this fall.

6592The Weisberg building is organized to promote multidisciplinary collaboration among the university’s programs and researchers. A central atrium soars four stories and serves as a window into the structure. The complex’s scale and brick and cast stone exterior are consistent with adjacent campus architecture.

“After years of hard work and planning, the opening of the new complex is an enormous step forward toward the realization of our dreams and vision for our students, the university, the community and the state,” said Dr. Wael Zatar, dean of Marshall’s College of Information Technology and Engineering.

Zatar said Marshall currently has approximately 650 students in undergraduate engineering, computer science and safety technology programs and graduate engineering, computer science, environmental science and technology management programs. The university anticipates the new building could help double that number of students in less than 10 years.

“This new, state-of-the-art building will be a tremendous asset to Marshall University’s students and faculty by providing the resource capabilities to advance current and future research funding initiatives,” he said. “The university’s engineering and technology students will have classes under one roof with some of the most advanced engineering and technology labs in the region.

“The building will allow for growth, the addition of new programs and tremendous opportunities for our students. The education and experience they receive in this complex will benefit the community and region by providing top-notch graduates to meet the needs of prospective employers in the region and will capitalize on the growing interest in the fields of engineering and technology.”

The Weisberg family has been very supportive of Marshall University and, through their financial assistance, has greatly contributed to the successful re-establishment of the university’s engineering degree program, which was re-launched in 2006. Engineering is now one of Marshall’s fastest-growing majors.

Art Weisberg’s reason for supporting Marshall’s engineering program was simple: “Engineering, to me, is the future of America and West Virginia… I love Huntington and I know this gift will make a lasting difference,” he said when the donation for the engineering complex was announced in June 2012.

Other donors to the new facility include Mary H. Hodges, the Baer and Polan families, the BrickStreet Foundation, J.H. Fletcher & Co., Doug and Sue Ellen Hardman, Charles and Victoria Neighborgall and Shelba Pew.

Complex Highlights

Few people thought they would ever see such a building at Marshall–or, for that matter, in Huntington. But there it now stands, four splendid stories placed perfectly on Third Ave. between the university’s seven-year-old Arthur Weisberg Family Engineering Laboratories just to the west, and the nine-year-old Robert C. Byrd Biotechnology Science Center just to the east.

Notable features of the new Weisberg building include the following:

  • Wireless technology throughout and state-of-the-art design to provide a 21st century learning environment.
  • An advanced materials testing lab where full-scale designs of bridges, building and mining-related structures can be evaluated under real-world conditions. This lab has a three-foot concrete floor and adjoining L-shaped wall where the prototypes can be anchored for testing. The lab makes the new complex one of the most capable engineering laboratories in the region and is already attracting the attention of outside organizations interesting in partnering on research projects.
  • A vaulted lobby spotlighting the four-story connector staircase, complete with stainless steel railings and study areas on every floor.
  • An experimental green roof installed this spring by more than 90 volunteers. The roof will reduce the amount of stormwater discharge from the complex while also providing an opportunity for students to study the ecological effects of stormwater and associated plantings.
  • Classrooms and labs equipped with smart podiums that allow professors to display notes, diagrams and documents on large screens at the front of the class.
  • High-resolution monitors throughout, including in the various study areas and classrooms, and along the long hallways. Group work stations allow students to connect their computers or tablets to an adjoining television screen and collaborate more efficiently.

During the ceremony, White credited Dr. Stephen J. Kopp, Marshall’s late president, for having the vision to recognize what a facility of this type would mean to Marshall University and the entire community, and for working tirelessly to make it happen.

“The completion of this complex means Marshall University has added more than $100 million in academic facilities on the north side of Third Avenue from 18th Street to Hal Greer Boulevard in slightly less than a decade—due in large part to the efforts and dedication of Steve Kopp,” he added. “It was his life’s work and we will be forever grateful.” Jane Kopp, wife of the late president, attended today’s ceremony.

Plymale was the lead sponsor of legislation in 2004 that led to the restart of Marshall’s engineering program.

“Legislation was necessary to allow Marshall University to offer a baccalaureate degree in engineering,” Plymale said. “Following the passage of this essential legislation, the four-year degree was revived. Accreditation of the program flowed shortly thereafter.”

He said that a few years later legislation for the $25 million in funding from higher education bonds was passed.

“Coupled with the generous donation by the Weisberg family, this proves that by working together the community prospers,” he added. “Seldom in the legislative process do you get to see a long-term plan come together, from start to finish. I am humbled to have served to see this dream come true. I am honored to have been a part of the team that helped this day come to fruition.”

Effect on Research

Dr. John M. Maher, Marshall’s vice president for research, said the impact of the new building will be profound and felt long into the future.

“The engineering program now has a state-of-the-art physical space in which to grow and thrive,” Maher said. “In addition, research at Marshall is immensely enhanced by the proximity of high-tech facilities and faculty along the Third Avenue corridor. Researchers in engineering are now closer to colleagues in medicine, pharmacy, chemistry, biology and physics, and the offices of the research corporation are more convenient to the campus community.

“Marshall’s already considerable strengths in collaborative, multidisciplinary research will be taken to new levels by this forward-looking investment.”

Bastian & Harris of Charleston was the architectural firm for the complex. BBL Carlton of Charleston was the construction firm. Construction took about 30 months.

John Harris of Bastian & Harris said, “The Arthur Weisberg Family Applied Engineering Complex has been the most exciting project I have had the pleasure to be a part of. The entire process was truly a collaborative effort. Taking Dr. Kopp’s initial vision for the project, working with our design consultants and the university’s team to implement that vision, then through the construction phase when it became a reality, it has all been extremely rewarding.”


The building also is LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) certified—a green building program that recognizes best-in-class energy efficient building strategies and practices. In addition to saving the university money on utilities, the sustainable features of the complex will be used as instructional tools. Stormwater collected from the roofs will be used for teaching and research projects and also will be recycled as graywater for some of the building’s plumbing.

“The fact that we were able to incorporate so many energy-saving measures and become the first LEED-qualified building on Marshall’s campus—while maintaining the safety and air change requirements of an engineering complex with laboratories—and still remain on budget is something the design team is proud of,” Harris said. “But, it is the little details that all came together into the final product that make it a very special project.”

In addition to Bastian & Harris, the design team included:

         Hastings+Chivetta, St. Louis, architectural design consultant;

         Scheeser Buckley Mayfield, Uniontown, Ohio, MEP engineering consultant;

         Schaefer Associates, Cincinnati, structural engineering consultant;

         Research Facilities Design, San Diego, laboratory design consultant; and

         Terradon Corp., Charleston, landscaping.


Photos: (From top)

Members of the Weisberg family and special friends cut the ribbon at today’s ceremony.

Pam Weisberg, daughter of Arthur and Joan Weisberg, speaks on behalf of the Weisberg family at today’s ribbon-cutting.

Joan Weisberg listens to one of the speakers during today’s ribbon-cutting.

Photos by Rick Haye/Marshall University