WPI Receives $6 Million from George I. Alden Trust for New Center in Undergraduate Life Sciences

Grant, the Largest in the Alden Trust’s History, Empowers WPI to Create State-of-the-Future Life Science Labs
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WORCESTER, Mass. – Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has recently received a $6 million grant from the George I. Alden Trust for the renovation and integration of several undergraduate laboratories into the new Undergraduate Life Sciences Laboratory Center at WPI. The gift, the largest in the Alden Trust’s 95-year history, is the second given to WPI by the Trust in recent years for the purpose of improving undergraduate academic facilities. In total, the Alden Trust has contributed $11 million toward WPI’s critical mission of improving life sciences education at the undergraduate level.

When completed, the Undergraduate Life Sciences Laboratory Center at WPI will bring together the laboratory instruction of four departments in a single location, promote cooperation and collaboration across the disciplines, and support increased enrollments in engineering and science programs. Specifically, the new center will become WPI’s main facility for undergraduate teaching and research in biology and biotechnology, biomedical engineering, chemistry and biochemistry, and chemical engineering. Work on the renovation is slated to begin this July, with occupancy planned for February 2009.

“This important new center will provide world-class instructional and laboratory facilities and will support WPI’s vital mission of preparing well-educated, highly-innovative, and broad-thinking graduates,” said WPI President and CEO Dennis D. Berkey. “Indeed, progress in the life sciences depends critically on the ability and willingness of engineers and scientists to choose cooperation over competition and work together. This has long been a hallmark of a WPI education, and it will be supported quite specifically and effectively by these marvelous new facilities.

“Throughout WPI’s history, George Alden and the George I. Alden Trust have been tremendous supporters and partners of the university, and for that we are deeply grateful,” Berkey added.

The Alden Trust’s funds empower WPI to build even more momentum in its already impressive life sciences program; last year the university launched the new WPI Life Sciences and Bioengineering Center at Gateway Park. The center at Gateway Park serves as the school’s focal point for graduate education and research in the life sciences and related bioengineering fields. In addition to the groundbreaking research taking place there, Gateway Park is also critical to the economic development of Central Massachusetts’s biotech and life science industries.

Akin to the center at Gateway Park, the creation of the Undergraduate Life Sciences Laboratory Center at WPI calls for facilities that are state-of-the-future: teaching, research, and meeting spaces that will sustain WPI’s undergraduate life sciences programs for decades to come. The renovation comprises 21,300 square feet, and the new center, to be located at Goddard Hall, will feature vibrant, open, and technology-rich spaces that provide a host of new curricular opportunities. Building innovations will include laboratories for bioscience project work, organic chemistry, and interdisciplinary teaching. Other features will include shared computer space, a classroom, instrumentation, and a variety of spaces for project meetings and informal interactions among students and faculty.

“WPI is making tremendous strides in the life sciences both internally and within the region,” said Susan B. Woodbury, chair of the George I. Alden Trust. “George Alden was a founding member of the WPI faculty, and it is heartening to know that his guiding principle of ‘theory in practice’ is still as relevant today as it was almost 150 years ago. We are thrilled that WPI has embraced this ideal and has created an educational arena that produces students who make a real and positive impact upon the world. The Alden Trust is proud to help WPI take its undergraduate life science offerings to a world-class level.”

About George I. Alden and the Alden Trust

George I. Alden was an industrialist and an educator, having taught mechanical engineering for 28 years at WPI. As pioneer members of the WPI faculty, George Alden and his colleague Milton Higgins achieved national recognition in the 1880s and 1890s for their skillful and compelling espousal of an engineering education that combined practice with theory. Alden and Higgins were early examples of creative academic innovators whose energies took them beyond the campus into the competitive world of industry. In 1885 they joined with several Worcester businessmen in establishing the Norton Emery Wheel Company. Upon his retirement from industry and teaching, Alden wanted to help young people become effective contributors to society through education. Thus he became a trustee of WPI, a trustee of the newly formed Worcester Boys Trade School, and a leading member of the Worcester School Committee. He established the George I. Alden Trust on August 24, 1912, for the general purpose of "the maintenance of some charitable or philanthropic enterprises," with particular expressed interest in "the promotion of education in schools, colleges, or other educational institutions," as well as a particular interest in several named Worcester educational organizations. With more than $19 million in overall contributions, the Alden Trust has been the most stalwart supporter of improvements to WPI’s physical plant, as well as the university’s most generous benefactor.