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  October 12, 2004

Neag School's Addition Showcased At Dedication

Educational technology was showcased during the dedication of the new wing of the Charles B. Gentry Building, home of the Neag School of Education.

The new wing, a 20,000-square-foot addition to the 45-year-old building, opened this semester. The construction project also included upgrades to the original facility's flooring, windows, and wiring.

As for technological advances, the Gentry Building is now 100 percent wireless - a first on the Storrs campus; and seven new rooms, to be used as classrooms or for meetings, are equipped with technology - also new to the campus - that links interactive white boards with computers.

The $10 million project was funded in large part by UConn 2000. Successful fund-raising efforts involving Neag School alumni, school superintendents, and others helped equip and furnish the building.

In his welcoming speech, President Philip E. Austin made special note of two benefactors, Ray and Carole Neag.

In 1999, Ray Neag - for whom the school is now named - gave $21 million to the School to help build it into one of the country's best. At the time, his gift was the largest ever given to a school of education in the nation or to a public university in New England.

The Neag School's new wing is an important element in the University's overall progress, said Austin. "When you stand back, metaphorically as well as literally, you see that the real cause for celebration isn't the new facilities; it's the creation, in aggregate, of a new campus and a new University. We build on a strong foundation laid by distinguished faculty and talented students, but we are now moving several giant steps forward."

Richard Schwab, dean of the Neag School, cited improvements in endowments, grant productivity, alumni association membership, and the recent jump to number 31 in the U.S. News & World Report rankings as examples of the School's growth in reputation and quality. All these were made possible by the Neag investment, he said.

The next and much-needed step forward was a building to meet the School's expanding needs.

"Our dream, when we began the design phase, was to build a facility with the very latest in technology that would enforce the concept of a community of learning; a place that celebrates the past but looks to the future; a place that demonstrates the centrality of education to the mission of the University," said Schwab.

Rupal Jain, a senior majoring in elementary education, told the audience that she senses a change of community within the school because of the new building. "I feel more a part of the school now than I ever did," she said. "There are wonderful spaces for students and faculty to meet and exchange ideas."

The new wing features the Collaborative Technology Center, including a homework cafÉ and several high-tech classrooms for local and distance learning, community space for students and faculty, expanded office space, flexible space for accommodating large conferences and classes, and an atrium connecting the new facility with the old.

Three rooms have been named for the people and groups who have made substantial contributions to the building project. They are the Dean's Advisory Board Room, the Superintendents Seminar Room, and the John and Carla Klein Room. Fund-raising efforts continue for another large meeting room, the future Alumni Hall.

From the outside, the Neag School's addition helps create a new architectural image for the campus. The Gentry Building and its sister building, the Center for Undergraduate Education, were designed by Svigals + Partners of New Haven.

Sculpted panels on the facades of the two buildings are comprised of figures interwoven with words and phrases composed of the 12 letters found in "University of Connecticut." Sculptor Barry Svigals collaborated with UConn fine arts students and faculty members Randall Hoyt and Mark Zurolo to create figures that seem to be walking toward the heart of campus.

The addition was the beginning of a two-phase construction project. The second phase - a $10 million major overhaul and expansion of the original building - is slated to begin in two years.