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$15M gift announced for new Computer Science building

The College of Engineering announces a $15 million gift from John and Marcia Price to build a new home for computing.

This is adapted from a College of Engineering post originally found here.

John and Marcia Price.

The College of Engineering is proud to announce a $15 million lead gift from philanthropists and benefactors John and Marcia Price to build a new home for computing. Pending approval of the University of Utah Board of Trustees, the building will be named in their honor.

“We are pleased to lend our support to this effort that is so crucial to Utah’s expanding economy,” said John Price. “The University of Utah has an international reputation for innovation in computer science, and Marcia and I want to help ensure that opportunity for this generation and all future generations of Utah students.”

The Price’s contribution toward the new 209,000 square foot, six-story building will support future growth for the School of Computing. The U produces 46% of the state system’s BS, MS and Ph.D. computer science and computer engineering graduates with 1,929 enrolled students.

Prominent Utah family

John Price is an American diplomat and former U.S. Ambassador to Mauritius, Comoros and the Seychelles. He moved to Utah as a teenager and earned a bachelor’s degree in geological engineering at the University of Utah in 1956. Price started his career as the founder of a construction company, which developed into JP Realty Inc. and was listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 1994.

Price is known as one of Utah’s most prominent businessmen, with success throughout the intermountain region. He has also served on numerous local, state, and national boards, including the University of Utah’s Board of Trustees from 1992 to 1999.

Marcia Price is a leader in the arts community, with a lifelong passion for the Utah Museum of Fine Arts where she serves as board chair. She has devoted herself to advancing the arts in Utah, serving as chair of the Utah Arts Council and later helping to establish Salt Lake County’s Zoo, Arts and Parks Program. Price received an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from the University of Utah in 2006. The UMFA building as well as the new Theatre Arts building and amphitheater are named in honor of the Price’s contributions to the arts. Marcia Price also sits on the National Committee for the Performing Arts at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and serves as board member emeritus on the boards of the Utah Symphony and Utah Opera.

John and Marcia Price live in Salt Lake City, where they have raised their three children and continue to spend time with their eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

The Price’s gift launches a $30 million private campaign for the $120 million new building that will be located on the “tech corridor” of the University of Utah campus, between the Warnock Engineering Building and Sorenson Molecular Biotechnology Building. The University of Utah will make the new computing building its top priority request for state funding at the 2022 legislative session. A campaign committee has been organized led by legendary College of Engineering alumni John Warnock, Ed Catmull and Shane Robison.

College of Engineering’s biggest gift

“This magnificent gift is the largest in our college’s 126-year history,” said Richard B. Brown, Dean of the U’s College of Engineering. “It will be transformational in helping us meet the responsibility we embrace as the state system’s largest producer of engineering and computer science graduates.”

“In addition to supplying the workforce for Utah’s tech-talent-thirsty industries, the college is a major source of innovation and technology commercialization, with nearly $90 million per year in faculty research expenditures, and 98 spin-out companies since 2006,” said Brown.

The need for additional space has become critical. With 58 faculty members and a growing enrollment, the School of Computing has outgrown its current location in the 60-year-old Merrill Engineering Building. The new building will enable the School to double the number of graduates and expand its offerings in data science, cybersecurity, fintech, machine learning and AI, and human-centered computing. Its construction will benefit the entire college, by providing additional space for the other disciplines to expand, modernize their teaching laboratories, and produce more graduates.

“While remote learning will continue to have a place in course delivery, studies during the pandemic have shown that students learn better and actually prefer in-person instruction,” said Brown. “The new computing building will provide an environment where students will have access to the specialized facilities needed to teach subjects such as robotics and cybersecurity, and where they will develop the interpersonal skills that employers value, such as problem solving, teamwork and communication.”