Dual success: Robert Morris opens building, reaches fundraising goal

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Singing and celebrating marked the opening last Thursday of the new Wheatley Center at Robert Morris University in Moon and the completion of a $40 million fundraising campaign.

The campaign -- called Changing Lives, Building Futures -- is the largest fundraising campaign in the university's history. It funded construction of the Wheatley Center, which houses the School of Communications and Information Systems, and the School of Business building that opened last year.

More than 8,200 donors contributed to the campaign, which started in 2006. It also funds 30 new scholarships and the RMU Research Center on Black Male Educational Student Success, which is funded through a gift from The Heinz Endowments.

More than 300 people attended the opening ceremony, called Celebration2. Dozens of students were there, many serving as tour guides to walk guests through the facility.

The 50,000-square-foot building houses an art gallery, a 3-D design room, screening room, computer labs and a cafe.

The first exhibition also opened -- "Reframing Research," which displayed research-based art work by the Media Arts faculty.

The signature feature of the building is a three-story central atrium flooded with natural light. Allegheny Technologies Inc. donated a titanium sculpture that sits on a raised platform near the entrance.

The building is named for Phillis Wheatley, who lived from 1753-1784 and was a slave, poet and the first African-American woman to publish a book. The building's name was picked by faculty and announced at the celebration.

Students and faculty read their poetry at the event, and cast members from Colonial Theatre sang songs from "Tommy," the play they will perform this semester.

"This building is symbolic of how the capital campaign has contributed to the ongoing transformation of Robert Morris University while allowing us to stay true to the mission and core values that this community embraces like no other university I've seen," said university president Gregory G. Dell'Omo.

Also during the event, university trustee Barbara McNees, president of the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce, was presented with the David J. Malone Volunteer Service Award.

The first award was given last year to Mr. Malone, vice chairman of the university board and chairman of the capital campaign and CEO of Gateway Financial.

Neither Mr. Malone nor Ms. McNees graduated from Robert Morris, which makes "their tireless effort on behalf of the university even more inspiring," said Gary Claus, chairman of the university board of trustees and a 1974 Robert Morris graduate.

The Wheatley Center "will be open to the entire university and members of the community for events like seminars, workshops, gallery exhibitions, screenings and theatrical performances," said Barbara J. Levine, dean of the School of Communications and Information Systems. "It's really a wonderful addition to the RMU campus."

The center is part of a plan to give each of the university's five schools dedicated space. Ground breaking will be scheduled soon for a medical simulation center for the School of Nursing and Health Sciences, which is scheduled to open in 2013.

education - neigh_west

Linda Wilson Fuoco: lfuoco@post-gazette.com or 412-722-0087.


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