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Bridging Divides

Bridging Divides: The Origins of the Beckman Institute at Illinois

Theodore L. Brown
Stanley O. Ikenberry
Richard H. Herman
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 128
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  • Book Info
    Bridging Divides
    Book Description:

    Bridging Divides offers a first-hand account of the origins of the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, an interdisciplinary research institute at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign devoted to leading-edge research in the physical sciences, computation, engineering, biology, behavior, cognition, and neuroscience._x000B__x000B_The book follows the progress of the Beckman Institute's creation, from the initial conceptualization of a large, multi-disciplinary institute; through proposal formulation; to the architectural design and actual construction of its state-of-the-art building, made possible by the largest gift made to any public university at the time: a $40 million contribution from Illinois alumnus and founder of Beckman Instruments, Inc., Arnold O. Beckman and his wife Mabel M. Beckman._x000B__x000B_Theodore L. Brown, the founding director of the Beckman Institute, brings an insider's personal perspective on its conception and its early operations. The evolution of a physical facility that matched a developing sense of what multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary research might be was a vital ingredient in the Institute's development. In addition, because the Institute represented a dramatic departure from traditional university organization, many challenges involving its administration and faculty had to be overcome. _x000B__x000B_A celebration of the Beckman Institute's first twenty years of operation since the building's completion in 1989, Bridging Divides provides an informative look back at the history of this groundbreaking interdisciplinary research center.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09064-6
    Subjects: Architecture and Architectural History, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Stanley O. Ikenberry

    No single event in recent decades had a greater impact on the University of Illinois than the creation of the Beckman Institute. At the center was Ted Brown, who is uniquely qualified to capture the drama surrounding one of the most innovative academic creations of the era. In recounting the history, Ted does not disclose how important it was to Dr. Arnold Beckman and to me that he serve as the institute’s founding director. No single person is indispensable; but still, absent Ted’s continuity of vision and extensive knowledge of the culture and capabilities of the campus, it is possible...

    (pp. xiii-xvi)
    Chancellor Richard H. Herman

    There is a good reason that leaders of this institution continually point to the Beckman Institute as a successful research model. Many parties played a role in shaping Arnold Beckman’s generous gift into a lasting legacy. The foreword by Stan Ikenberry and Ted Brown’s account convey just how remarkable an accomplishment the formation of the institute was. I want to expand on their words to capture the dynamic of the way things work at Beckman and the influence that this has had on the way we do research, on this campus and elsewhere.

    It is hard to go to any...

    (pp. xvii-xviii)
    (pp. 1-12)

    Our story begins quite a long time back.* Arnold Beckman was born in the small town of Cullom, Illinois, about seventy miles north of Urbana-Champaign. He grew up there and in Bloomington, Illinois, where he was a student at the laboratory high school associated with what was then Illinois Normal University. After military service as a marine in World War I, during which he met his future bride, Mabel Meinzer, Arnold attended the University of Illinois and received a BS degree in chemical engineering in 1921 and an MS degree in physical chemistry in 1922. He had a very successful...

    (pp. 13-25)

    The Beckman gift was announced on Saturday, October 5, 1985, during the fall meeting of the University of Illinois Foundation. The announcement was made at a meeting in the auditorium of the College of Law. Stan Ikenberry began with a general announcement of the $40 million gift. He was followed by Governor James Thompson, who announced his intent to recommend to the state legislature a special $10 million appropriation in the fall legislative session specifically directed toward costs associated with the construction of the new institute. The groundwork for this commitment had been laid by Stan Ikenberry in several calls...

    (pp. 26-35)

    The groundbreaking ceremony took place in October 1986 during the University of Illinois Foundation’s annual meeting (figure 3), one year after the announcement of the gift. The Beckmans were of course present, as was Stan Ikenberry, Tom Everhart, and other notables, including Governor James Thompson, who arrived late but made up for it by telling of his role in courting the Beckmans. The ceremony was symbolic; preparation of some contract documents was still in progress, and the earliest construction contracts would not be awarded for another month.

    The fences surrounding the site were soon up, however, and digging began before...

    (pp. 36-46)

    In the fall of 1987, just two years after the announcement of the Beckman gift, we had made excellent progress on the design and construction of the Beckman Institute. The success or failure of the institute as a multidisciplinary research center would turn, however, on our ability to attract the participation of an outstanding faculty from the campus and elsewhere. The institute represented a marvelous opportunity for the campus to expand its presence in interdisciplinary research areas. The facilities would be outstanding, and the physical arrangements would greatly enhance the prospects for stimulating interactions between faculty who might otherwise have...

    (pp. 47-56)

    As the site development moved ahead, the temporary quarters we had enjoyed in the converted apartment building had to go. Accordingly, we moved into basement space in the institute. A temporary entry was constructed on the north side, where there would eventually be a stairway. The walls of the planned offices and laboratories in the part of the basement we occupied were in place, and we used these spaces as best we could for the various offices and meeting spaces. The quarters were a bit spartan. AChampaign-Urbana News-Gazettearticle of that period written by J. Philip Bloomer, who regularly...

    (pp. 57-71)

    In the wake of the inauguration excitement, it was time to do the many things necessary for the institute to become effective. Among them was putting together a staff. By this time the Beckman Institute had an annual state budget for operations, with understandings of how maintenance would be shared between the institute and the university’s physical plant. A great many things that would pass for ordinary in other facilities required special attention in the institute. For example, the flooring in the atrium was polished stone, much of which was covered with large carpets. Maintenance of the carpets and the...

    (pp. 72-76)

    At the time of Mabel’s death in June 1989, the Beckmans had disposed of a considerable fraction of their wealth through philanthropic activities. Centers and institutes had been established at the University of Illinois, the California Institute of Technology, Stanford University, City of Hope Hospital in Duarte, California, and the Beckman Laser Institute in Irvine, California. The Beckmans had contributed $20 million to build the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Conference Center of the National Academies in Irvine, California. Several other multimillion-dollar awards had been given to institutions throughout the nation. All this largess did not, of course, go unnoticed. Articles...

  13. APPENDIX 1 Letters of Appointment of Faculty Committees to Prepare Proposals
    (pp. 79-85)
  14. APPENDIX 2 Letters of Appointment of Program, Administrative and Steering Committees
    (pp. 86-101)
  15. APPENDIX 3 Instructions for Proposal Submission
    (pp. 102-104)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 105-108)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 109-110)