National Instruments CEO donates $10 million for new UT engineering building

Hannah Jane DeCiutiis

After the Cockrell School of Engineering got a $10 million donation for its new Engineering Education and Research Center, Gregory Fenves, dean of the Cockrell School, said the new facilities will make the University an even more competitive recruiting force for engineering students.

National Instruments CEO and president James Truchard made the $10 million personal donation because he said the University was lacking a central location where engineering students can innovate and collaborate. The Engineering Education and Research Center is scheduled to open in 2017 and will replace the Engineering-Science Building (ENS). Truchard’s donation will help fund the National Instruments Student Project Center, which will allow engineering students of all disciplines to take part in more hands-on projects during the course of their college careers.

According to the EERC website, the center is a $310 million project, with the majority of funding coming from the UT System Board of Regents, the University itself and the state of Texas. The Cockrell School has been making efforts to raise the remaining funds through private donations by individuals and corporations.

Truchard is an alumnus of the University, holding a doctorate in electrical engineering as well as a master’s and a bachelor’s degree in physics, according to his biography.

Fenves said donations result in naming opportunities for sections of the building proportional to the amount and importance of the donation.

“Naming opportunities for the building range all the way from an office to the entire building,” Fenves said. “This is a recognition of the gift, so there’s no direct relationship in how we use the space or what kind of equipment we use, although we do use a lot of National Instruments equipment because it’s good equipment.”

The naming of building sectors is an important opportunity for companies hoping to recruit UT engineering students upon graduation, Fenves said.

“Our engineering graduates are in very high demand,” Fenves said. “One of the reasons companies are interested in the EERC is name recognition. Students are going to go through the building and see the name of the company, so when it comes time to apply for jobs and begin the hiring process, many companies feel that name recognition will help in their recruiting process.”

Julia Betts, corporate communications and investor relations manager for National Instruments, said the company brings a positive presence to the university level, providing excellent facilities and equipment for students to practice with in their chosen fields.

“Having strong facilities for student experiences in engineering and science are a factor in attracting students to Austin which benefits the local community and National Instruments,” Betts said. “National Instruments presence on campuses is always helpful in demonstrating the impact and value of our technologies to students.”

Garrett Galow, electrical engineering senior and vice president of internal affairs for the Student Engineering Council, said National Instruments already holds a large presence as an employment opportunity for UT graduates. He said he was not surprised by the generosity of Truchard’s gift to the engineering school due to his giving nature.

“I worked for National Instruments doing internships and somewhat met Dr. Truchard before,” Galow said. “He’s a really kind man and he doesn’t fit the stereotype of a CEO at all. He’s very generous and this definitely seems like something he would do. I think it’s a great thing.”

Printed on Tuesday, January 15th, 2013 as: Engineering center helped by donation from CEO