Skip to Main Content
It has the sheen of a small miracle: a 1977 College of Engineering graduate creates a company called Garmin that becomes the world leader in global positioning technology. Then, thirty years after graduation, he returns to his alma mater to present the college with the single largest private donation of its kind in the UT Knoxville history - a gift of $17.5 million, with $12.5 million going directly towards the construction of a new building for engineering and computer science.
Named after it benefactor, this building, at the intersection of Cumberland and Middle Way, will be known as the Min Kao Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Building. On hand for the 2007 groundbreaking, Dr. Kao said, "I am fortunate to be in a position to give back to a university that did so much for me. I hope the new facility will allow others to pursue their dreams and will further position UT as a gateway to great things in engineering and innovation."
A true public-private partnership, with an additional $25 million coming from the state of Tennessee, the Kao building is also a gateway project from another perspective—the greening of UT's Knoxville campus. It will be the first campus structure built for LEED certification, the U.S. Green Building Council's recognized standard for achieving sustainability. Among other things, the designation requires the use of environmentally sound materials, correct positioning of the building to make best use of sunlight, and the energy-efficient indoor lighting.
"It all fits with what engineering is doing, with alternative fuels, wind power, and the biofuels initiative—all way to conserve energy," says former UT Chancellor Loren Crabtree, who sees the Kao project as an inspiration. "The campus administration plans to make all future buildings LEED-certified and environmentally friendly, from a new residence hall to the construction of new academic buildings."
Meanwhile, through recent environmental initiatives, the university has purchased enough "green energy" from TVA (representing about 2.6 percent of the school's annual electricity use) to qualify as an EPA Green Power Partner.
The emergence of a green campus, so well expressed in the new Min Kao building, will make a substantial difference in the life of UT, where sustainability itself, in every conceivable discipline, has already gained status of an art form capable of changing the way we see the world.