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Groundbreaking officially kicks off Lafferre Hall project

Using shovels, several luminaries in suits break ground near the site of the Lafferre Hall renovations.

Officials from the University of Missouri, UM System and MU College of Engineering joined members of the Missouri Legislature and other luminaries for a groundbreaking ceremony on April 13 at Lafferre Hall to mark the ceremonial start of the upcoming renovation and reconstruction of the College of Engineering’s main building. Photos by Shelby Kardell.

Officials from the University of Missouri, UM System and MU College of Engineering joined members of the Missouri Legislature and other luminaries for a groundbreaking ceremony on April 13 at Lafferre Hall to mark the ceremonial start of the upcoming renovation and reconstruction of the College of Engineering’s main building.

Kurt Schaefer stands at a podium and addresses the crowd.

Missouri State Sen. Kurt Schaefer was one of several to address the crowd gathered at the groundbreaking ceremony. Fellow speakers, from left, were Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering major Lauren Wertz, Lafferre Hall namesake Thomas Lafferre, UM System President Tim Wolfe, MU Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin, and College of Engineering Interim Dean Robert Schwartz.

The ceremony honored those who helped make the project possible. The Board of Public Buildings ­— Gov. Jay Nixon, Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder and Atty. Gen. Chris Koster — approved the Missouri Legislature’s $38.5 million bond issuance for repairs to Lafferre Hall. The project will allow for space to accommodate student competition teams, student conference rooms and study spaces on the main floor, alongside expanded laboratory space to better accommodate research. The building’s various additions will be connected, and the project will make the entire building accessible according to the guidelines set forth by the Americans with Disabilities Act. A coffee shop also will be part of the renovation.

Additionally, private gifts will fund a third floor to the renovated section.

College of Engineering Interim Dean Robert Schwartz served as opening speaker and Master of Ceremonies, taking the time to thank several generous alumni as well as members of the Missouri Legislature instrumental in helping secure the project’s funding, including Sen. Kurt Schaefer, House Speaker John Diehl, former Rep. Chris Kelly and current representatives Caleb Jones, Caleb Rowden and Stephen Webber.

After Schwartz’s opening remarks, those present heard remarks about the importance of the project from MU Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin, UM System President Tim Wolfe, State Sen. Kurt Schaefer, Lafferre Hall namesake Thomas Lafferre and Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering Department senior Lauren Wertz. After the speeches, the speakers grabbed shovels and broke the ground near the upcoming construction site on the north side of the building.

Loftin expressed gratitude to former dean James Thompson, the Missouri Legislature and Nixon for their work in securing funding for what he called “the highest priority the University of Missouri had for its renovation needs.”

“This is not a new problem for us but one we now have the ability to solve thanks to so many of you in front of me right here,” Loftin said.

Wolfe called the upcoming renovation symbolic of what the university sets out to accomplish and said the improvements will help MU meet state and national needs for graduates in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics — or STEM — fields.

“We need to keep growing (STEM graduate) numbers, and to accomplish this, we need the physical infrastructure behind us to have the labs and the classroom space in which to educate our students so that they can go on to productive careers and help the economy of the State of Missouri,” Wolfe said.

Schaefer is chairman of the Missouri Senate’s Appropriations Committee and serves on the Joint Committee on Education. He took the time to thank his fellow legislators who helped make the project possible and stressed the importance of continuing to grow state funding for education.

“I’m proud that the $38.5 million that the state is able to contribute to this project is going to advance the purpose of this land-grant university and make sure our students have the ability into the 21st Century to be top-notch engineers,” Schaefer said.

Lafferre called the renovation a culmination of a long project, one which he’s been personally involved since beginning the process by making his generous gift to the college in 2003, calling it “money well spent.”

“This is probably the last phase of Lafferre Hall, and I think we’re going to end up doing it right as we’ve done everything else right here,” he said.

Wertz, who also serves as president of the Formula SAE Racing Team, called her engineering experience “anything but ordinary,” and expressed the importance of the hands-on experience afforded to MU Engineering students.

“No matter where my future leads, I know that the education and support I received from the MU College of Engineering gave me a strong starting foundation,” she said. “I’m excited to see the opportunities available to the MU Engineering students after me because of the renovation beginning today.”

Schwartz closed by reiterating the timeline for the project before the ceremonial groundbreaking.

“Tomorrow (April 14), asbestos removal begins, and demolition on the building is scheduled to begin the Monday after engineering’s May 17 commencement ceremonies. Project completion is scheduled for December 2016,” Schwartz said.