Milwaukee School of Engineering Gets $34 Million for Next-Gen Tech Hall

MILWAUKEE — The future of digital technology is being written in brick and mortar thanks to a $34 million gift to the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) from Dwight Diercks, an MSOE regent and alumnus, and his wife, Dian.

The new facility, dubbed the Dwight and Dian Diercks Computational Science Hall, will be built at the center of the university’s downtown campus in an area that is currently a parking lot. The building will open in the fall of 2019 and feature a next-generation technology program that will teach artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, cybersecurity and cloud computing, among other emerging disciplines. The project is set for groundbreaking in mid-2018.

Diercks earned his bachelor’s in computer science and engineering at MSOE in 1990 and also holds an honorary doctor of engineering degree from the university. Diercks is presently senior vice president of California-based software engineering company NVIDIA, which specializes in AI and visual computing.

The Dwight and Dian Diercks Computational Science Hall will be 64,000 square feet, comprising four floors above ground with an additional 18,000 square feet of subterranean parking. Moreover, the state-of-the-art data center will be home to a supercomputer that’s intended to be used both by students and industry (the supercomputer will be funded by MSOE itself). The hall will also boast eight contemporary classrooms, 13 innovative teaching laboratories, 28 faculty and staff offices, nine offices and workspaces for corporate and academic partnerships, and a 250-seat auditorium for guest lectures and other public events, according to the university’s website.

“I am pleased to announce this investment in our future. Thanks to the generosity of Dwight and Dian Diercks, MSOE is building on our foundation of excellence and answering the call to educate the next generation of professionals needed to fill the global demand for technology experts, leaders and entrepreneurs,” said MSOE president Dr. John Walz in a statement.

“Five to 10 years from now — maybe even two years from now — if you’re not an expert in artificial intelligence, your company may not survive,” Diercks said in an ominous statement to the Journal Sentinel, a local news service.

Wisconsin-based Uihlein/Wilson-Ramlow/Stein Architects is the architect of record for the project. The mid-sized organization is a full-service design firm who offer services in architecture, interior design and planning.

Milwaukee School of Engineering is a private, non-profit university offering bachelor’s and master’s degrees in engineering, business and nursing.

“MSOE changed the course of my life and my career, and has a special place in my heart,” said Diercks in a statement. “Just as the modern computer transformed technology 30 years ago, AI will transform technology as we know it for the next generation and across all industries. I wanted to give MSOE a gift that would position this incredible university as a major application-focused computer science and artificial intelligence center for the Midwest and U.S. for years to come.”

The Diercks’ gift is the single largest contribution from an alumnus in the school’s 114-year history.

Daedalus Howell

Daedalus Howell is the associate editor at Emlen Media. He can be reached directly at daedalus@emlenmedia.com. He writes books, makes movies, podcasts and blogs at DaedalusHowell.com/blog

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