Kent State Gets Green Light for Historic Campus Transformation

At Kent State University, the phrase “four more years” has nothing to do with politics. It refers to the time frame for a physical transformation of the university’s Kent Campus that will be historic in size, scope and significance. That time frame became official today (Sept. 12) when the university’s Board of Trustees authorized the university to move forward with four, major capital projects on the Kent Campus totaling nearly $150 million.

Kent State’s investment in university-wide improvements, which is possible in part because of the university’s issuance of $170 million in general receipts bonds, is motivated by far more than aesthetics. The projects approved today are part of a larger building and renovation initiative called “Foundations of Excellence: Building the Future.”

“Without exception, every improvement we make will contribute to the creation of a 21st-century learning environment that supports Kent State’s top priorities: academic excellence and ensuring the success of all students in all majors on all of our campuses,” said Kent State President Lester A. Lefton.

The projects approved today are:

Science Facilities Fit for the 21st-Century. The most heavily used science buildings on the Kent Campus (Cunningham, Smith and Williams halls) will undergo major renovations. A versatile, new multidisciplinary research addition in the science mall area will address research needs in all science disciplines. The target cost for the renovations and addition from bond funds is $56 million, plus an additional $16 million in state capital funding.

Today’s Architects to Design New Building for Tomorrow’s Architects. Kent State’s nationally respected College of Architecture and Environmental Design, which offers Northeast Ohio’s only architecture degree program, has its studios, classrooms and offices scattered across campus. That will no longer be the case when the college gets a new, high-profile home on the Esplanade near the Kent State University Hotel and Conference Center that will open next June.

A design competition, to be overseen by a jury of university leaders and leading architects, will be held to select the firm that will design a distinctive landmark and learning facility. The competition will be a rare opportunity to tackle a “by architects for architects” project. The target cost for the building is $37 million, to come from the university’s issuance of $170 million in general receipts bonds.

Framing the Future of Art Programs. The university will create an Art complex centered on the existing Art Annex and Art Building. When completed, the nationally respected art program’s classrooms, studios and offices will no longer be scattered across six buildings on the Kent Campus. The project will involve the complete rehabilitation, reconstruction or replacement of the existing building envelopes to improve energy efficiency and give the complex a new look. The target cost for the project is $22 million, to come from the university’s issuance of $170 million in general receipts bonds.

A New High-Tech Home for High-Tech Programs. A new building will be constructed on the Kent Campus science mall to house the university’s College of Applied Engineering, Sustainability and Technology. The building, which will replace the college’s home in aging Van Deusen Hall, will include shelled space to permit quick expansion. The new building will be designed with a focus on sustainability, with the goal of achieving Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) gold or platinum status from the U.S. Green Building Council.

“This is an extraordinary opportunity to reshape our campus and community for generations,” said Board Chair Jacqueline Woods. “These new buildings, combined with several additions, expansions and other improvements, represent a solid financial investment that is both necessary to move us forward as a world-class university and important to meet the demands of our students, staff and faculty. I applaud the Board for taking steps to support this project and we are excited to see each phase that’s still to come.”

The capital projects approved today top a list of high-priority projects that was compiled with input from key Kent State stakeholders, including deans, faculty, staff members and students, as well from a board-administration Joint Projects Oversight Committee. In addition to the new buildings approved today, the university will undertake major, university-wide renovations of classrooms and laboratories; increase energy efficiency; increase accessibility; add a new, 41,140 square-foot Science and Nursing Building at Kent State University at Stark; and will extend the Esplanade walkway on the Kent Campus into downtown Kent.

With campus improvements mirroring the renaissance of downtown Kent, the sights and sounds of construction have become as common to the Kent State community as the university’s ubiquitous black squirrels. Students are gaining a competitive edge in the cutting-edge Science and Health Building at Kent State University at Ashtabula; the University Library has been modernized to meet 21st-century research and study needs; Northeast Ohio is seeing a range of Broadway-caliber entertainment at the Performing Arts Center at Kent State at Tuscarawas and the Roe Green Center; a scenic Student Green on the Kent Campus is a few weeks from completion; and today’s Board meeting followed a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Kent State University Regional Academic Center in Twinsburg, which has greatly expanded access to higher education, training and retraining for residents of four Northeast Ohio counties.

“To ensure the success of our students now and for decades to come, we have made the bold decision to make Kent State everything a 21st-century university should be,” Lefton said. “When our plans are fully realized, Kent State will have played a key role in a public-private investment in the region’s future totaling nearly $700 million; helped create nearly 1,800 jobs; helped make the city of Kent one of the nation’s most vibrant and visited college towns; and helped improve the quality of life in Northeast Ohio.”

In other actions:

  • The Board named the university’s Field House weight room in honor of Kent State alumnus James Harrison. The NFL linebacker is a two-time Super Bowl champion who plays for the Pittsburgh Steelers and recently made a $100,000 commitment to the university’s football program.
  • The Board named the Office of the Museum Director in Rockwell Hall, home of the renowned Kent State University Museum, in honor of Kent State alumnus Gerald L. Schweigert. Schweigert recently provided total contributions of $1.1 million — the largest gift in the museum’s history — to create an unrestricted endowment for the museum.
  • The Board authorized the university to enter into a new mutual-aid agreement with the city of Kent that enables the university to have readily available additional police personal, resources and assistance should a campus emergency require more police resources than it can provide independently.
  • The Board authorized a $3.7 million project to renovate the Main Classroom Building Lecture Hall at Kent State University at Trumbull. The renovations, which are expected to be completed by spring 2014, will extend the Lecture Hall in length and width; expand seating capacity to about 300; and ensure that the facility is fully accessible for individuals with mobility impairments.
  • The Board granted emeritus status to: Dr. T. John Akamatsu, professor of psychology; Dr. Brent C. Bruot, professor of biological sciences; Dr. Connie S. Collier, associate professor of teaching, learning and curriculum studies; Dr. Fredric F. Endres, professor of journalism and mass communication; Dr. Donald F. Palmer, professor of geology; Dr. Carl Schierhorn, associate professor of journalism and mass communication; and Dr. Timothy D. Smith, professor of journalism and mass communication. Emeritus status is a distinguished title that honors a faculty member’s contributions by allowing him or her continued access to university resources after retirement from the university.
  • Board officers were elected for 2012-13. Jane Timken will serve as chair; Dennis Eckart will serve as vice chair; and Stephen Colecchi will serve as secretary. They will take office at the Board’s December meeting.

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Media Contacts:
Eric Mansfield,, 330-672-2797
Emily Vincent,, 330-672-8595

POSTED: Wednesday, September 12, 2012 09:35 AM
Updated: Monday, February 8, 2016 03:30 PM