The Morgan Family

Endowing WPI Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning

The morgan familyDescendants of Charles Hill Morgan have made a $2.1 million gift to endow WPI’s center that supports excellence in teaching, hereafter to be known as the Morgan Center for Teaching and Learning. 

Morgan-Worcester Inc., the philanthropic foundation of Morgan Construction Company, the heirs of the company’s founder, Charles Hill Morgan, and the Beagary Charitable Trust made the gift, resulting in the renaming of WPI’s Center for Educational Development and Assessment for the Morgan family. The center promotes excellence in teaching at WPI, enhances teaching effectiveness at all levels, supports new teaching innovations, and assesses student learning outcomes to guide improvements in teaching practice and the curriculum. 

“WPI has a well-deserved reputation for excellence in undergraduate teaching, due in large part to the dedication and innovative spirit of its faculty and the many opportunities our project-based curriculum provides for close interaction between faculty and students,” says WPI President Dennis Berkey. “This gift, from a family whose loyalty and generosity are woven into the fabric of the Institute’s history, will give us the ability to reach even higher levels of quality, effectiveness, and academic excellence.” 

Rapid advances in engineering, science, and technology have placed greater demands on professors who are preparing the next generation of engineers, scientists, and industry leaders. The Morgan Center will play a critical role in ensuring that WPI professors can meet these challenges. For example, the Morgan Center will award seed grants for new initiatives that hold the promise of significantly improving teaching and student learning. In a recent project, the center collaborated with WPI’s Academic Technology Center to support the university’s Connected Laboratory, in which multimedia technology enables faculty to maximize learning outcomes for students conducting experiments in biology labs. The pilot program paved the way for a $270,000 grant from the Maine-based Davis Educational Foundation to expand the project and develop a library of digital laboratory resources for students. Initiatives like the Connected Laboratory build on WPI’s reputation for high-quality instruction and close student-faculty interactions. 

“This extraordinary gift recognizes the success we have achieved, the value that WPI places on high-quality teaching, and the importance it attaches to student learning,” says Chrysanthe Demetry, associate professor of mechanical engineering and director of the Morgan Center. “By endowing the Center, the Morgan family has secured the future of important programs that serve our community of teachers and learners and that will extend WPI’s long tradition of fostering educational excellence.” 

“WPI’s unique project-based approach to teaching and learning and its long history of innovation were born in the marriage of theory taught in the classroom with the practice students gained in the shops that my great-grandfather built and led,” says Paul S. Morgan. “It is gratifying to be able to endow this center and to assure that it will have the means to keep this heritage of forward-looking, student-centered education alive for generations to come.” 

Morgan Construction Company, which was purchased by Siemens VAI in 2008, was founded by Charles Hill Morgan in 1888. Employed by WPI founder Ichabod Washburn as general superintendent, Morgan supervised the construction of the Washburn Shops, one of the Institute’s first two buildings. The shops were a manufacturing plant where students learned the practice of manufacturing engineering tools. This attention to both Lehr und Kunst—theory and practice—remains a cornerstone of a WPI education today. Morgan was appointed a WPI trustee in 1865 and served until his death in 1911. 

Since then, five generations of Morgans have served on the WPI Board of Trustees, and Paul S. Morgan was appointed to chair the board. Philip R. Morgan currently serves as a WPI trustee. The Morgan family has also been one of WPI’s most generous benefactors. The Morgans have made possible the Morgan-Worcester Distinguished Instructorship (for mechanical engineering faculty), scholarships, and a number of major capital projects, including the Morgan Hall residence and the renovation of the Washburn Shops.

The new Sports and Recreation Center answers a compelling need on campus for premium fitness space for students, faculty, and staff. It will anchor the west side of the Quadrangle, literally and figuratively occupying a place at the heart of campus life. The center will include a four-court gymnasium, workout rooms, wellness classrooms, meeting spaces, a fitness center, and a natatorium housing a modern 25-meter swimming pool and spectator seating.  The facility will also provide space where the WPI community and beyond can gather for large-scale events, such as robotics competitions, career fairs, and campus celebrations.

Construction will begin following the 2010 Commencement in May, with the center to be completed by August 2012. The architect for the project is Cannon Design Inc., and the general contractor is Gilbane Construction Inc.

“WPI students respond to challenge with unusual maturity. They channel their energies in remarkably creative ways. This is true in our classrooms, on our project teams, and on our sports teams. It is why sports and recreation facilities are so important on our campus; they provide an indispensable context in which WPI’s culture of high achievement can find its physical expression,” says President Berkey. “We are not just building another gym. We are building a place for our community to come together – for competition, for camaraderie, for celebration. We are building a new setting for excellence.”

The new center also will be built to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification standards from the U.S. Green Building Council, in accordance with the WPI Board of Trustees endorsement in 2007 of a policy calling for the design of all future buildings on campus to be environmentally friendly and meet LEED Certification standards. WPI's other LEED certified buildings include East Hall and Bartlett Center, the university's admissions and financial aid building.

At the time of the Board of Trustees vote on the project on October 30, the undergraduate Student Government Association presented WPI with a check for $31,000 to support the new Sports and Recreation Center, and the Graduate Student Association contributed another $10,000. Impressed by this show of support, a WPI trustee, who wishes to remain anonymous, is matching these student contributions to this important facility.

WPI has also received several leadership gifts to the Sports and Recreation Center, from Barbara Donahue, Ellen and Stu Kazin '61, and the Fred H. Daniels Foundation. In addition, Carr and Wood have generously contributed $250,000 to the Center, and Elliot Whipple has given $25,000.