The Wire @ WPI Online
VOLUME 11, NO. 3     FEBRUARY 1998

Gifts totaling $7.6 million will fund new building, scholarships

$5 million from Alden Trust equals largest gift in WPI history

PI has received a $5 million grant from the George I. Alden Trust of Worcester to support the construction of a new academic building. The grant equals the largest gift in WPI's history, the $5 million bequest from George C. Gordon, Class of 1895. Received in 1965, that gift funded the construction of Gordon Library, which recently celebrated its 30th birthday.

"WPI is elated about the Alden Trust's support of this 33,000-square-foot facility. It will fill critical campus academic needs and support one of the University's highest academic priorities," President Edward A. Parrish says. "In the past, the generosity of the trust enabled WPI to build and refurbish facilities of unsurpassed excellence. This gift continues that legacy."

The new facility will provide new classroom space and new faculty offices to alleviate overutilization of current classrooms and overcrowding in other academic buildings, as well as unified space for selected academic departments. "The new faculty offices are a vital component of WPI's commitment to a project-based education, which requires a great deal of one-on-one engagement between professors and students," Parrish adds.

Parrish says the building will feature technologically advanced classrooms equipped for the educational technology of the future. These will include two state-of-the-art multimedia classrooms fully equipped with educational technologies ranging from video delivery to computer ports, a traditional classroom, and smaller seminar rooms. WPI expects the classrooms, particularly the multimedia classrooms, to be in high demand, hosting eight classes per day as well as evening classes.

Building design will begin immediately, with construction expected to start in the fall of 1999. The building's cost is estimated at $7.8 million. The planned location of the building is the north end of the parking lot on Boynton Street below Gordon Library and adjacent to Kaven Hall, says John E. Miller, director of physical plant.

"This will be one of the WPI buildings that faces the public," Miller says. "The site demands an architecturally appealing building that fits the site, is received well by our neighbors, and invites the interests of visitors." This facility could also be linked to a planned parking garage, providing safe access, particularly in the evening or during inclement weather.

The George I. Alden Trust, created by one of WPI's original faculty members, is WPI's greatest benefactor (see box). Since 1920, the trust has awarded WPI $10.8 million, not including this most recent bequest.

"This new academic building will affirm George Alden's greatest passion: focusing on philanthropic endeavors involving education," says Francis H. Dewey III, chairman of the trust. "Alden understood the rewards of giving to the institution where his career began and flourished, and the trust believes that this academic structure will continue that tradition."

$2.6 million bequest is WPI's second largest

$2.6 million bequest recently received from the estate of Harry A. Sorensen '30 is the second largest in WPI history, according to Elizabeth Siladi, director of planned giving. The largest gift was the $5 million bequest of George C. Gordon, Class of 1895 (see story on Alden Trust grant, this page).

"This gift reflects the high esteem in which Harry Sorensen held his alma mater," notes Siladi, who says the gift will be used to establish the Harry A. Sorensen Scholar-ship Fund.

Sorensen, who left no surviving family members, had distinguished careers in industry and academic. Originally from Hartford, Conn., he earned one of the four matriculation scholarships granted by WPI in 1926 by excelling on tests on nine subjects. WPI later granted him a scholarship for his next three years. He received a B.S. degree in mechanical engineering.

While at WPI, where he was affectionately know as "H.A." or "Gummy," Sorenson was active in the radio and rifle clubs, was the manager of the golf team, and was a member of ASME, Tau Beta Pi and Theta Upsilon Omega fraternity.

After graduation, he joined the engineering firm of Stone & Webster in Boston, building dams and power plants. From 1930 to 1936 he worked for the Hartford Metropolitan District before returning to college to earn a master's degree at the University of Michigan in 1937. He then taught mechanical engineering at Pennsylvania State University, and in 1945 he received a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the University of Michigan. He worked for Pratt & Whitney Aircraft until 1947, when he began his distinguished career in higher education.

In 1948 he joined the faculty of Washington State University, where he headed the Mechanical Engineering Department for 20 years prior to his retirement in 1973. Sorenson was the author of three engineering books: Gas Turbines (1951), Principles of Thermodynamics (1961) and Energy Conversion Systems (1983). His wife of 60 years, Merella, died in 1991.


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