NEWS

Campus Celebrates New Edith O’Donnell Arts and Technology Building at Formal Dedication

November 22, 2013

More than 1,000 students, faculty, staff and University supporters attended a dedication ceremony in the lecture hall of the Edith O’Donnell Arts and Technology Building.

Students, faculty and staff welcomed longtime UT Dallas supporters Edith and Peter O’Donnell and their guests to the Nov. 7 dedication of the new Arts and Technology Building named in Mrs. O’Donnell’s honor.

The 155,000-square-foot building was designed by STUDIOS Architecture – the same firm that designed Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. It includes a 1,200-seat lecture hall, a motion capture lab, soundproof chambers and 3-D fabrication labs, as well as classrooms for game design, sound design and visual arts among others.

An audience of more than 1,000 people stood to greet the O’Donnells with rousing applause as they took their seats on stage in the lecture hall. Peter O’Donnell said that naming the building for his wife is a fitting tribute because the Arts and Technology Program (ATEC) reflects her enduring passion for arts and technology.

Edith and Peter O’Donnell, longtime higher education and UT Dallas supporters, shared a moment during the dedication ceremony.

Mr. O’Donnell remembered the campus as little more than a cotton field in the 1960s. Texas Instruments co-founders Eugene McDermott, Cecil Green and Erik Jonsson had established the research institution that formally became UT Dallas in 1969.

In less than 50 years, “with inspired leadership, consistent support from the business sector and the magnificent generosity of Margaret McDermott, UT Dallas has become a highly respected research university,” Mr. O’Donnell added.

“When we first toured the building two weeks ago, we thought it was breathtaking. And we’ve been in a lot of art buildings all over the world. But this one is exceptional. We felt the energy and excitement of the students and faculty. Edith observed that the building inspires creativity. And Edith knows creativity. ATEC is well-positioned to solve new problems in a whole new way,” O’Donnell said.

UT Dallas President Dr. David E. Daniel reflected on the couple’s longtime relationship with the University, praising Edith O’Donnell as “a benefactor and leader in championing the cause of the arts and education,” and her husband, Peter, as a “force for excellence.”

ATEC students stood and were recognized by President Daniel, who pledged to them that “in this building you will develop extraordinary talents and skills at the intersection of art and technology.”

Dr. Dennis Kratz, dean of the School of Arts and Humanities and holder of the Ignacy and Celina Rockover Professorship, said the building’s design embodies the philosophy and goals of the ATEC program. He concluded, “We resolve to build a comprehensive ATEC Program, internationally respected, second to none, where students and faculty explore the convergence of the arts, technology and science in a rich humanistic context.”

Dr. Francisco Cigarroa, chancellor of The University of Texas System, and UT System Regent Ernest Aliseda both spoke during the dedication. Other guests included a number of legislators and city council members from Richardson and Plano.

Former U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison chatted with other University supporters after the dedication ceremony.

Chancellor Cigarroa said he always senses the academic rigor on campus during his visits. “Every time I drive through UT Dallas, I just feel brainpower,” he said. “It’s remarkable.”

He commended the ATEC program as “one of the most innovative 21st century programs in The University of Texas System, if not in this great United States of America, bringing the arts and humanities together with science and technology in a fusion of creative thinking.” He also thanked the O’Donnells for their philanthropy to the entire UT System.

Student work was on display during the dedication ceremony and throughout the day as guests took self-guided tours of labs and studios. As guests arrived, photographs of the new building were projected on a large screen in the lecture hall, demonstrating the creative ability of the students enrolled in Professor Marilyn Waligore’s photography classes. Students in the UT Dallas Woodwind Quintet performed as the audience gathered for the ceremony, and senior lecturer Kelly Durbin played the piano as people filed into the lecture hall.

Students gathered near the wood version of artist Liz Larner’s “X” sculpture. A stainless steel version is located in the courtyard of the building as part of the citywide exhibition, Nasher XChange.

After the dedication ceremony, students, faculty and staff mingled with guests and gathered outside to admire the building’s facade, as well as the stainless steel “X” sculpture commissioned by the Nasher Sculpture Center for the city-wide exhibition, Nasher XChange. The steel sculpture and a wood replica displayed inside the building were created by the internationally renowned artist Liz Larner.

Student Government President Liza Liberman said, “This building symbolizes the amazing growth of our campus. I think students realize how fortunate we are to be here and have wonderful facilities like the ATEC Building. And the building itself is really cool, so I know the students get a kick out of that.”