Notice of Online Archive

  • This page is no longer being updated and remains online for informational and historical purposes only. The information is accurate as of the last page update.

    For questions about page contents, contact the Communications Division.

Lafayette has undertaken a massive renovation and modernization of its entire 90,000-square-foot engineering complex, building upon its national reputation for academic excellence in engineering education.

On Oct. 24 the complex will be dedicated as the Acopian Engineering Center in recognition of a major gift from Easton, Pa., businessman Sarkis Acopian, a 1951 Lafayette graduate, and his wife, Bobbye. Acopian is the founder of Acopian Technical Company, Palmer Township, Pa. The dedication ceremony begins at 5 p.m. with a reception and tours to follow at 5:45 p.m.

The Acopians’ support of the engineering project comes during the 50th anniversary of his graduation from Lafayette.

The amount of the Acopians’ gift was undisclosed, in accordance with the donors’ wishes.

“Our entire engineering complex has been renovated,” said James P. Schaffer, Lafayette’s director of engineering. “The project is very large in scope, but progressed quickly. It will benefit students in many ways, including increasing opportunities for collaborative research with faculty, a hallmark of engineering at Lafayette. It will also help us build on our strong record of success in recruiting and retaining outstanding students.”

Lafayette President Arthur J. Rothkopf said, “We are deeply grateful to Sarkis and Bobbye Acopian for their extraordinary generosity and vision. Sarkis Acopian’s record of success in business is matched by a record of generosity to worthy philanthropic causes in the Lehigh Valley and beyond.

“It is typical of this modest man that he does not wish Lafayette to state the amount of his gift or the total cost of the engineering renovation project, and we are pleased to comply. Suffice it to say the Acopians’ investment in the future of engineering education at Lafayette is very significant and will have a far-reaching impact on generations of students,” Rothkopf said.

Engineering majors make up about 22 percent of Lafayette’s student body. The College offers bachelor of science degree programs in chemical engineering, civil and environmental engineering, electrical and computer engineering, and mechanical engineering. There is also a bachelor of arts degree program in engineering that exemplifies Lafayette’s tradition of integrating engineering and the liberal arts.

Lafayette ranks No. 1 among all U.S. colleges that grant only bachelor’s degrees in the number of graduates who went on to earn doctorates in engineering between 1920-1995, according to the Franklin and Marshall College study “Baccalaureate Origins of Doctoral Recipients.”

Lafayette has gained national recognition for its success in attracting and retaining outstanding women engineering students. The American Society for Engineering Education featured the College in the cover story of the March 2001 issue of its Prism magazine, entitled “Getting it Right: Attracting Women to Engineering is Tough, but Some Schools Have Found a Formula that Seems to Work.” Prism cites Lafayette among nine engineering schools nationwide that have “excelled in upping the ranks of women in their midst.” The other schools are Michigan State, Notre Dame, Northwestern, Purdue, Tufts, Tulane, and the universities of Colorado and Oklahoma.

In addition, Lafayette received a grant of $151,875 from the National Science Foundation to build on this success and further strengthen recruitment and retention of both women and minority engineering students.

The renovated engineering complex includes several new teaching and learning spaces, including innovative student learning centers, additional labs designed specifically for collaborative student/faculty research, and additional high-tech classrooms. The student learning centers, labs, and faculty offices associated with each degree program are grouped together to facilitate interaction among the students and faculty in each program and create a greater feeling of identity and community.

Each program has a new student learning center designed and equipped specially for use by the students in that major. Students helped design the centers, which will be open around the clock with comfortable seating, computers, discipline-specific libraries, and other features.

“Students in each major have a new common area of their own where they can come together. The learning centers aren’t just lounges, theyare work spaces where students can really get things done, where they can work on team projects, for example, at any time of day or night,” Schaffer said.

“These are great places for newer students to meet and get to know older students and learn about their experiences as Lafayette engineering majors,” Schaffer said. “This will motivate young students and bolster their enthusiasm about their decision to pursue engineering, and should have a positive impact on our already strong retention rate.”

Another attribute of the Acopian Engineering Center that will help build community among students and faculty is a new openness achieved by the widespread use of glass walls in labs and classrooms.

“People can see each other working. There will be a greater sense of shared purpose and more informal interactions and spur-of-the-moment conversations that give people a greater feeling of connection,” Schaffer said.

Cutting-edge classrooms in the complex, both new and renovated, are compatible with current and emerging learning and teaching methods and enrollment trends. Many of the classrooms, which have a variety of configurations and capacities, are equipped with the latest instructional technology. All are designed with the flexibility to adapt to changing needs in the future.

The Department of Computer Science, which is not part of the engineering division, has relocated to the Acopian Engineering Center. It had been housed in Pardee Hall.

Major infrastructure improvements have been made, including a complete upgrade of the information technology system; lighting system; heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning system; and fire-protection system. There are more women’s restrooms (and all restrooms have been upgraded) and the complex has been made complient compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The architect is Anshen+Allen, Baltimore, Md.

Announcement of the project was made by Charles E. Hugel, Acopian’s classmate in the Class of 1951, a former trustee who chaired the Lafayette Leadership Campaign. Publicly launched in October 1997 and wrapped up four years later, the campaign raised $213 million. Hugel made the announcement at the dedication ceremony for the Hugel Science Center, Lafayette’s new $25 million building for chemistry, physics, and biochemistry programs, on June 1, 2001.

The Hugel Science Center and Acopian Engineering Center are among several major recent academic construction and renovation projects at Lafayette. More than $150 million in new academic, residential, and recreational facilities have been undertaken in the past eight years.

Currently under way is a $22 million renovation and modernization of Skillman Library that will further strengthen the College’s academic program. The project includes a 27,000-square-foot expansion of the library and major changes to the existing structure.

Categorized in: News and Features