Campus & Community

New education ‘centerpiece’ gets off ground

Teaching teachers at DU got a $21.4 million boost Feb. 25 when 16 shovels ceremoniously turned ground and officially kicked off construction of a new college of education building.

Katherine A. Ruffatto Hall of the Morgridge College of Education will be “a centerpiece of the future,” predicted Chancellor Robert Coombe. He noted that the new building and the Learning Effectiveness Program it will house are part of a “great blossoming” and will follow a tradition of teaching teachers that began at DU in 1899.

“The next 10 years will see this University become one of the very strongest and most impactful of universities in this country,” Coombe said. “And this building and this program are an enormous part of that.”

He called education “the central challenge of our time” and emphasized that the new building will help position the university as an “agent of change within our society.” Among the difficult challenges the University face are thorny issues affecting early childhood and urban education, K-12 learning, access and affordability, accountability and use of technology in education.

“[Ruffatto is] an investment, and the result will be shown in the lives of children,” he said.

Coombe delivered his message in a tent set up in a parking lot adjacent to the site of the new building, which already is under way on the north side of East Evans Avenue between Race and High streets. His message resounded strongly with the several hundred faculty, friends, donors, trustees, guests and 40 first- and second-graders from the Ricks Center for Gifted Children who gathered for the occasion.

“This is a day I’ve dreamed of for seven years,” quipped former Education Dean Ginger Maloney, who heads the Marsico Institute for Early Learning and Literacy that will be housed in the new building. The institute is the product of a $1.5 million gift from the Cydney (BSBA ’78, MBA ’80) and Tom (MBA ’79) Marsico Family Foundation and will serve as a nationwide center for policy analysis of early childhood issues.

Mike Ruffatto, who with his late wife, Joan, donated $5 million to the project in honor of their daughter Katherine Ruffatto, emphasized the importance of training teachers to inspire students.

“This University has a long tradition of education and of teaching teachers. It is now raising that standard even higher,” he said. Programs in Ruffatto Hall will help pass along “passion for learning to new generations.”

Echoing the theme and emphasizing the importance of empowering DU’s education programs were Carrie and John Morgridge, whose $10 million gift helped spearhead construction.

“Our passion has always been literacy, and we do a lot of literacy projects,” said Carrie Morgridge, a DU trustee. “We will not stop until all children get a great education.”

The speakers’ remarks came amid earthmoving vehicles and 20-foot tall mounds of soil and rock. Demolition companies and excavators have been preparing the site for several months under the direction of general contractor Adolfson & Peterson.

Electricity, phone, cable TV and sanitary sewer lines have already been rerouted, said Dave Snyder, campus operation director, and other infrastructure elements will be tackled as city permits are issued. Among these will be intersection improvements at High Street and Evans Avenue and extension of steam and chilled water connections from the central plant in Sturm Hall.

Occupancy of the 73,568-square-foot building is slated for mid-June 2010.

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