By Brooke Adams, communications specialist, University Marketing and Communications
The Carolyn and Kem Gardner Building that will replace Orson Spencer Hall will be a state-of-the-art learning space, equipped with the latest technology and thinking about how to foster learning of the highest caliber.
One thing that won’t change: The new building will remain the heart of the University of Utah campus—the main classroom building where hundreds of thousands of students, for decades to come, will learn, collaborate and develop new ideas about how to improve the world. And some, just like the building’s namesakes, may even meet their life partners within its walls.
On Friday, the university held an unveiling ceremony to officially announce the Carolyn and Kem Gardner Building, made possible by a legacy gift of $10 million from the Gardners.
“You’ve done it,” U President David W. Pershing said to the Gardners during the ceremony. “You’ve made it a reality for us. This has been a dream for a very long time and it just wasn’t possible to get it done until the two of you came along. Without the two of you there would be no building, there would be no groundbreaking. It was your visionary leadership, your dedication, your generous gift that made this possible.”
The $68 million building, expected to open fall 2018, will be home to the U’s College of Social and Behavioral Science and other key colleges, offices, centers and institutes.
In addition to the Gardner gift, other donors who contributed funds for the new building include Chartwells Higher Education, the Emma Eccles Jones Foundation, Rocco C. Siciliano, the Meldrum Foundation, Jeffrey K. and Sarah S. Scott and the Richard and Leslie Haskell Family Foundation. Significant funding also will come from student fees.
The Carolyn and Kem Gardner Building was designed by MHTN Architects and will be built by Okland Construction Company.
Orson Spencer Hall, known as OSH, was opened in 1955; its namesake was the first chancellor of the University of Deseret, which became the University of Utah. The outdated building no longer provided adequate space or amenities for the College of Social and Behavioral Science—the largest college at the university, which accounts for 27 percent of undergraduate degrees awarded annually.
Ruth V. Watkins, senior vice president for academic affairs, said that when she first arrived at the U four falls ago, every single person she talked to brought up the need to replace Orson Spencer Hall with a new building—a point driven home when she spotted a group of students clustered around a single electrical outlet during a visit to the building.
“The way we work and learn in the 21st century is very different than it was when OSH was initially built,” Watkins said.
Watkins said students helped and inspired administrators to make the new building a reality.
“Students played a critical role in planning process, helping us older people understand what students want and need in a building today,” Watkins said. “Fortunately, Carolyn and Kem Gardner shared their vision.”
The College of Social and Behavioral Science’s seven departments, five programs and several
institutes and centers, including the Social Science Research Institute and the National Center for Veterans Studies, will be housed in the new building. The Carolyn and Kem Gardner Building also will be home to the Hinckley Institute of Politics, the Office of Global Engagement and the newly created School for Cultural and Social Transformation.
In addition, the Gardner building will house 33 classrooms, two auditoriums, conference and project rooms, collaborative laboratory facilities and several student study spaces. Key features include:
- University of Utah Welcome Center, which will showcase the array of high quality, comprehensive student opportunities available at the university, from academics to athletics, leadership to learning and classroom to career for prospective students and their families.
- Collaborative Social Science Advising Center, which will allow students to get critical information in a timely and integrated, one-stop way from advisors who are cross-trained across majors. The center also will house a Social and Behavioral Science internship coordinator, ensuring students know about the wide variety of opportunities to be engaged in the community and can easily get career and job-seeking advice. An online coordinator also will be housed in the center to help students get the most from online courses.
- A cutting-edge, joint laboratory shared by the departments of Geography and Anthropology that, along with the Environmental and Sustainability Studies Program, will foster interdisciplinary research, student training and community engagement focused on how humans have adapted to environmental change, how current environmental trends fit into the historical record and development of practical policy solutions for managing environmental problems.
- The Social Science Research Institute will include a Political Science Experimental Laboratory, a Behavioral Economics Laboratory, a Secure Data Center and two research cluster groups — the Consortium on Families and Health Research and the Society, Water and Climate Research Group. The Political Science Experimental Laboratory will allow faculty and students to conduct experiments not possible in the past.
Cynthia Berg, dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Science, said the building’s design reflects the common goal envisioned by university leaders and students who helped plan it: To foster core relationships between students and faculty.
“I think you’re going to provide a new sense of community on this campus that we haven’t had before,” Berg said. “We can’t wait to see this building full of students and faculty who are passionate about learning.”
Carolyn Barnes and Kem Gardner met while they were undergraduates at the University of Utah and both took classes in Orson Spencer Hall, Carolyn Gardner said Friday as she recalled OSH as “a place of great learning and great professors.”
In the ensuing four decades, Kem Gardner became a business mogul with a successful real estate development company; he currently serves as chairman of the Gardner Company. Carolyn Gardner was a teacher for several years and now is a math and reading tutor at Mountain View Elementary. She also serves on the advisory board for the U’s School of Music. In addition, both are actively engaged in other community service and philanthropic work.
“The university has always been a special place, full of wonderful memories of our friends, our teachers and our classes,” Carolyn Gardner said. “When I first learned that OSH was being torn down and we looked at the many wonderful, important memories we had there, I insisted we support this new building.
“We could not have imagined as students here, and as poor as we were, that one day our name would someday be on a such a grand classroom building,” Carolyn Gardner said. “It is our hope that future students here, as well as our grandchildren, will enjoy learning from this wonderful institution. We know they will create memories and look back on their time here as one of great fulfillment and enjoyment, just as we have.”