Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign are enjoying classes this fall in a brand new student center, which was formally dedicated on September 23. The $7 million M.T. Geoffrey Yeh Student Center is a 20,500-square-foot addition to Newmark Civil Engineering Laboratory. Completed in July, the Yeh Center provides state-of-the-art classrooms, meeting rooms and informal gathering space for the department’s 1,300 students.
The project was funded entirely through private gifts, a particular accomplishment given the economic challenges of recent years, said Professor Amr S. Elnashai, CEE department head.
“Our success in raising the required funds and providing our students a state-of-the-art facility is a testament to our vision and drive, and to the faith our alumni and friends have in us,” Elnashai said. “Through economic peaks and troughs, CEE at Illinois has remained the top-ranked department. When many departments were contracting, we were building a new student structure that was donated entirely by our alumni, faculty and friends.”
The lobby of the Yeh Center features a glass wall installation designed with a civil engineering theme by local design firm McKenzie Wagner.
University of Illinois president Michael J. Hogan was among speakers at the dedication. Others included lead donor M.T. Geoffrey Yeh, Interim Vice President and Chancellor Robert Easter, College of Engineering Dean Ilesanmi Adesida, and Vice Chancellor for Institutional Advancement James Schroeder. Also speaking was current department head Professor Amr S. Elnashai and former department head Professor Robert H. Dodds Jr., who spearheaded the Yeh Center project during his tenure.
A $4 million naming gift for the student center was given by Illinois alumnus M.T. Geoffrey Yeh, a real estate developer and philanthropist from Hong Kong, who received his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in 1953.
The construction of the Yeh Student Center fulfilled the original vision for Newmark Laboratory, built in the 1960s, which included plans for an additional structure for classrooms. At that time, budget constraints prevented its realization. Before this year, civil and environmental engineering students have attended class in various buildings across the campus. In addition to state-of-the-art classrooms, the Yeh Student Center provides CEE students with a designated home on campus where they can hold student group meetings, study, collaborate on projects, and meet informally. It features sustainable design, including a green roof.
The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering is one of the nation’s top-ranked program for undergraduate and graduate civil and environmental engineering education. Research led by the department’s approximately 55 faculty members addresses such critical societal issues as infrastructure renewal, water purification, environmental protection, transportation safety, sustainable development, risk mitigation, and disaster response.
Dedication events began at 3 p.m. on Friday, September 23, and continued through Saturday, September 24, with a CEE pre-game party before the football game.