University of Denver Announces $40 Million Gift to Launch New Interdisciplinary STEM Focus

Gifts will fund construction and expansion of the Daniel Felix Ritchie School of Engineering and Computer Science and Knoebel Center for the Study of Aging

May 20, 2013, 16:26 ET from University of Denver

DENVER, May 20, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- The University of Denver today announced plans to launch a new interdisciplinary Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) initiative that will allow it to address societal needs of the 21st century, including preparing globally competitive graduates for business and entrepreneurship. As a catalyst for this initiative, the University will construct a new engineering and computer science building that will bring together multiple complementary STEM activities and research already taking place on campus. The new building will also house the new Knoebel Center for the Study of Aging.

The building is made possible by gifts totaling $40 million from Daniel L. Ritchie, chancellor emeritus, Betty Knoebel and the late Bill C. Petersen.

The Ritchie gift is the largest single donation in the University's history. Ritchie, who served as the University's chancellor between 1989 and 2005 and as chairman of the Board of Trustees from 2007 to 2009, transferred Rancho Cielo, a working avocado ranch in Montecito, Calif., to the University to support construction of the new building.

According to Chancellor Robert Coombe, the interdisciplinary initiative will allow the University to expand its current engineering and computer science programs, with a vision of further development of mechatronics, bioengineering and software engineering curricula. Added capacity will allow the school to increase its faculty by more than 30 percent and enhance scholarship and instruction.

"The University of Denver will be on the cutting edge of developing a new breed of STEM graduates ready for the complex technological needs of the future," Coombe said. "Our students will create real-life solutions to real-life problems with an integrated approach to learning."

The University will address the needs of an aging population through the creation of the Knoebel Center for the Study of Aging to be housed in the new building. Named in recognition of a gift from Betty Knoebel, widow of Denver food services pioneer Ferdinand "Fritz" Knoebel, the center will support research on aging and aging-related conditions.

Additional funding for the new building is provided through an estate gift from the late Bill C. Petersen (BSEE '69), an alumnus of the DU School of Engineering who had a lengthy career at the Gates Rubber Co. in Denver.

Groundbreaking for the new building is planned for late 2013, with completion expected in 2015.

The University of Denver is committed to improving the human condition and engaging students and faculty in tackling the major issues of our day. The University ranks among the top 100 national universities in the U.S. For additional information, go to or follow the University on Facebook and Twitter.                                                   

SOURCE University of Denver