By Nanette Light
The country's ability to crawl out of its economic slump will depend on its supply of creative engineers and scientists, said OU President David Boren Tuesday at the dedication of Devon Energy Hall, OU's new energy facility.
"We need vitality injected into America's economy," he said before cutting the ribbon of the 103,000-square-foot, $30 million building that now shadows a section of Boyd Street. "For the last four years, I've read that people don't expect America to be as good as the past. I read that and want to shout that's un-American."
Boren said the U.S. has the human talent to continue to be a world leader, despite India and China producing four times as many engineers.
"America doesn't run from the future," he said.
And it shouldn't steer away from oil and gas in favor of solar and wind power as these new technologies are refined, said Larry Nichols, chairman, co-founder and CEO of Devon Energy Corp.
"Everybody knows that when the sun sets and the wind stops blowing, what's going to cool your house tonight, what's going to keep the electricity and the computers and the TV going. It's going to be fueled by natural gas, or coal or oil. Those historic fuels that have gotten our country this far and made us this competitive," said Nichols, whose wife, Polly, is an OU graduate.
Nichols' father, John Nichols, Devon co-founder and chairman emeritus, and his wife, Mary, both of whom are OU graduates, initiated the company and family's support of the university.
Boren added that the country can't rely solely on tax funds to thrust science programs forward and reiterated the need for stewardship, such as the donation from Devon Energy Corp., whose $10 million contribution facilitated the rendering of the new building for the College of Engineering, which celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2009.
At the donation's initial announcement in 2004, Boren said it was the largest single corporate contribution to OU at one time and emphasized the stronghold the company holds in the oil and gas industry.
"It says something that in a time of challenge that building goes up," Boren said of Devon's new office tower in Oklahoma City that, when completed, will be the largest in the state.
The new facility showcases three types of classrooms: seminar rooms, group-oriented rooms and 60-seat team rooms.
In addition to the classrooms, the building features four floors of research space for weather radar, microelectronics and software and private break-out spaces where multiple projects can be worked on simultaneously.
College of Engineering Dean Tom Landers stressed the field's reliance on inter-disciplinary interaction as he referenced the small and large team rooms located along the building's main corridors, where anyone could stop to investigate current projects.
Devon Energy Hall also unites in one building the schools of Computer Science and Electrical and Computer Engineering, previously scattered across campus.
"We view this as an investment," Larry Nichols said. "An investment most importantly in the students whose profession our country really depends on."
Nanette Light 366-3541 firstname.lastname@example.org