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 UMD News Releases

Communication Associate: Public Relations | Lori Melton | | (218) 726-8830

October 16, 2003
Susan Beasy Latto, Director of Public Relations 218 726-8830
Greg Fox, Vice Chancellor of Finance and Operations 218 726-7102

UMD Chancellor Martin Hoisted Up 50 Feet
Atop New Swenson Science Building

"Topping Off" Ceremony Marks Completion of Highest Point
of the $33 Million Building
Nearing Completion on the UMD Campus

Campus Building Boom
Since 2001
UMD Has Constructed Three Other New Buildings
Plus a Seven-Story Addition to Griggs Hall
and the Renovation of Kirby Plaza

In "Topping Off" ceremonies today, UMD Chancellor Kathryn A. Martin was hoisted up 50 feet in a construction lift, where she placed a United States flag atop a steel beam of the $33 million Swenson Building which is nearing completion on the campus. She also signed the top-most beam. Joining her in the ride to the top were Jim Swenson, the building benefactor, Darrell Godbout, Vice President of Duluth Building and Construction Trades Council, and Dan Pennington, Project Manager, for the M. A. Mortenson Company (general contractor).

The "Topping Off" ceremony (a long-standing tradition in the construction trades) was held in celebration of the completion of the tallest part of the structure.

The stunning new Swenson Science Building is slated for completion in January 2005, marking the 4th new building in five years constructed on the UMD campus. Located on Kirby Drive (just off College Street) the three-level structure will house the departments of chemistry and biology and usher in state-of-the-art design for science education and research in the 21st century. The expansive layout incorporates two wings: a research wing and a teaching wing.

The new 110,000 gross square foot structure is named for Jim Swenson, a 1959 UMD chemistry graduate. Jim and Susan Swenson, through the Swenson Family Foundation, made a gift of $7.5 million to help fund the new building, providing impetus to local legislative leaders who led the way to secure the $25.5 million in state funding. (Please see attached page with profile of Jim Swenson.)

"Jim Swenson has been a strong advocate for science education and undergraduate research opportunities as well as a great friend to UMD," said Chancellor Kathryn A. Martin. "This state-of-the-art building will provide outstanding opportunities for learning and inquiry as our scientific knowledge advances at an amazing pace. UMD is enormously grateful to the Swenson Family Foundation and to our area legislators for making this wonderful building possible."

The new facility is designed to meet the challenging needs of 21st century science education and research and encourage collaborative learning. It will contain faculty student research labs, teaching labs, undergraduate research areas, a computer teaching lab, a student study room, and a lounge area. The new building replaces laboratories built in 1949 (chemistry) and 1968 (biology) and will provide a high standard and safe learning environment for complex experiments, research and teaching. Over 1,000 students per semester will receive instruction in the building. All first and second-year chemistry and biology laboratory classes will be taught there.

UMD currently enrolls 900 students majoring in chemistry, biology and pre professional health science programs. Faculty members in chemistry and biology presently oversee 17 externally funded research projects totaling over $2.4 million. The department of Biology advises more than 700 students in several degree programs, more than any other department at UMD.

Since 2001, UMD has completed construction on three other new buildings on the campus. They include: the UMD Library (opened fall 2001), the Robert W. Bridges Grounds/Fleet Building (opened winter 2001), and the Weber Music Hall (opened fall 2002.). Two other major building projects include a seven-story addition to Griggs Hall student residence ( opened fall 2002), and the renovation of Kirby Plaza (set to open December 2003).

For more information and updates on this project and more please refer to the UMD website.
Click on Planning Design and Construction

A Profile of James I. Swenson
by Susan Beasy Latto, Director of Public Relations at UMD

James I. Swenson attributes much of his outstanding success to the education he received at UMD, and he and his wife, Susan, have given back generously.

In October 1999, the Swenson Family Foundation donated $10 million to UMD, the largest single gift the campus has ever received. Of that $10 million, $7.5 million is committed to the Swenson Science Building, and $2.5 million is designated for chemistry, biochemistry, and molecular biology academic scholarships and research grants. Since 1993 the Swenson Family Foundation has each year supported up to 32 UMD academic scholarships.

Jim Swenson is an energetic, creative man whose roots lie deep in the Northland. He was born in Superior and is the eldest of five brothers. Upon his mother's death in 1955, Jim and his dad worked hard to keep the family together despite some very hard times. His father worked long hours running Eddie's Bakery, and the youngest brother in the family was only two years old.

Jim worked several jobs, including Eddie's Bakery and Great Northern Bridge and Building Department. He began college at UWS, then transferred to UMD and enrolled in the chemistry department where he termed his learning experiences "outstanding".

Working in the UMD chemistry lab doing peat research, Swenson says he received much individual attention, outstanding career counseling and "a real feel for industry and research." Those are things he wishes to help pass on to future generations of students at UMD.

He graduated from UMD in 1959 with a B.A. in chemistry; that degree, he says, made possible his tremendous success. He and Susan Locken were married that same summer.

After returning from the military, he proceeded to work for eight different large corporations including Honeywell and Univac. "I did not feel comfortable in the large corporate structure," he says.

With four employees and a $15,000 second mortgage on his house, Swenson began his own company...a very small printed circuit shop. His goal, he said, was "to bring high technology printed circuits out of research and into industry."

They created the "inner layer details" for printed circuit boards, and thus arose the name of his company, Details Inc. It became the fastest quick-turn-around engineering prototype circuit board shop in the United States whose client list included Compaq, IBM, Apple, Motorola and the like. When Details Inc. was sold in 1996 it had 480 employees, and Jim Swenson knew them all personally.

Jim and Susan Swenson live in California, but they return to their native Northland frequently. Now Jim Swenson wants the Swenson Family Foundation to help others because of the help extended to him in his early years as a college student at UMD. "The value and gratification to me is enormous," he says.

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