University celebrates launch of $54 million academic building

BY Cheryl Taylor

BROWNSVILLE – Lively percussion from the School of Music drumline started the noonday Tuesday program celebrating the first building to begin construction on the UTRGV Brownsville Campus.

The 102,551-square-foot, $54 million Academic Building will consist of two structures, each three stories, and will support general academics, science teaching labs, music instruction and recitals, and provide flexible spaces for study and student collaboration.

The celebration was held under a tent on the Main Lawn, along the circular drive and adjacent to a fenced area where construction crews already have started clearing the land for the new facility.

Local dignitaries, among them UT Regent Ernest Aliseda, Texas Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. and Brownsville Mayor Tony Martinez, joined university administration, faculty, staff, students and community members for a short program to recognize the facility.

Dr. Michael Quantz, professor of music and associate dean for the College of Fine Arts, began the program by asking guests to observe a moment of silence out of respect for the victims of the terrorist attacks that took place in Brussels, Belgium, earlier in the day.

He then introduced Dr. Havidán Rodriguez, UTRGV provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs, and presented two new deans whose colleges will utilize a large portion of the new multidisciplinary building.

Dr. Parwinder Grewal, dean of the College of Sciences, expressed delight at the four chemistry and two environmental sciences labs that will be in the building.

“With the new programs such as marine biology being added, and the new doctoral program in physics that is being approved, we need lab space desperately,” Grewal said.

Dr. Steven Block, dean of the College of Fine Arts, said he was thrilled to have come to a new university and have the bonus of a new building to accommodate the needs of the School of Music.

“This is part of the UTRGV dream, and we are dreaming big, with more new buildings to come,” Block said. “Hold onto your hats!”

Quantz noted that the building symbolizes the commitment and substantial financial investment in UTRGV by The University of Texas System.

“This building is a symbolic bridge, interweaving the legacies of the two institutions that UTRGV has built upon,” Quantz said. “This symbolizes a vast expansion of what has come before, and will provide a better, more productive environment and a working tool to accomplish the goals of UTRGV.

“This is a tangible step toward meeting the challenges ahead,” he said.

UTRGV Founding President Guy Bailey said most universities have a long, established history and place most of their effort in maintaining that legacy.

“UTRGV, however, is new, and the future is ours to create,” Bailey said. “We are building our future, the future for our students and the Valley. Educational opportunities are available here like never before, and it’s imperative we have the necessary tools for our students. We cannot develop programs without appropriate facilities.”

Bailey invited the dignitaries and students representing music and the sciences to join him in signing a ceremonial construction beam that will be used in the new building. The beam will be available for signing in the Main Courtyard, next to the Academic Advising Center, through Friday, March 25.

Percussion students concluded the program as it had started, this time with the lively strains of student marimba music.

Along the sidewalk to Main, student organizations continued their lunchtime sales. Their costs were covered by the generosity of the company that will build the new Academic Building: Bartlett Cocke General Contractors of San Antonio and Austin.