On Monday, May 14th, 2007, the University of Tennessee officially broke ground on the new Min Kao Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Building. The building is named for Kao, a UT alumnus and founder of Garmin Ltd.
Kao's gift of $12.5 million, out of a total donation of $17.5 million, to the construction of the new building for the College of Engineering (COE) remains the largest single gift toward one building in the university's history, and serves as the cornerstone of a public-private partnership in funding the facility. The remaining $5 million of Kao's donation was used in a dollar-for-dollar match with other private donations to create a $10 million endowment for the Min H. Kao Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS).
The 150,000-square-foot building is being built at a total cost of $37.5 million, with the additional $25 million provided in state funds. It will house classrooms, laboratories, a state-of-the-art clean room facility and a 2,500-square-foot auditorium and is projected to be completed in mid-to-late 2009. When opened, the building will be home to the EECS department, which was created on July 1, 2007 with the official merger of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the Department of Computer Science.
The groundbreaking ceremony was held under a tent in the courtyard between Perkins and Ferris Halls. Guests at the ceremony included Dr. and Mrs. Kao, several members of the Garmin administrative team, UT and COE faculty, staff and administrators and local, state and regional political leaders. Also attending were President Emeritus Joe Johnson and his wife Pat; vice chair of UT Board of Trustees, Andrea Loughry, and her husband Ed; and UT Board members Jim Haslam and his wife Natalie; Don Stansberry; Bill Stokely; Jim Murphy; Charles Wharton; Jim Murphy; and Spruell Driver. David Leaverton, field director for Sen. Bob Corker, also was present at the ceremony.
City of Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam and Mike Arms, Chief of Staff for Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale, both read formal proclamations honoring Kao and his contribution to the university and the Knoxville area.
In his remarks, Kao expressed gratitude to the university for providing him with an opportunity to start a new life in the United States, and saluted his former faculty advisor in the electrical and computer engineering department, Dr. Jim Hung, who was present at the ceremony. Kao's initial contact regarding the gift proposal was made in February of 2004 through Hung. Kao also praised his wife, Fan, for encouraging him to “give back” to the university where he studied as a graduate student.
After Kao's comments, Crabtree presented a framed architect's rendering of the new building to the Kaos.
Members of the groundbreaking team included the Kaos, UT President John Petersen, Chancellor Loren Crabtree, Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam, Knox County Chief of Staff Mike Arms, DuPont Corp. Vice President and COE Board of Advisors Chair Jim Porter and COE Dean and University Distinguished Professor Way Kuo.
The building is planned to be the first on UT's campus built for LEED certification. LEED certification requires using environmentally sound materials, positioning the building to make the best use of natural lighting and using indoor lighting that is both cost- and energy-efficient.
The two architectural firms working on the project, Bullock Smith and Partners and Lindsay and Maples Architects, have worked closely with both the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the Department of Computer Science to create a plan for the six-floor building that includes a soaring atrium, a classroom annex and a spacious deck with a view of downtown Knoxville.
Kao serves as Garmin's chairman and chief executive officer. The company is a world leader in Global Positioning System technology. A native of Taiwan, Kao received a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from the National Taiwan University and a master's and doctorate degree in electrical engineering from UT.