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Mulvas Give $15 million for Liberal Arts Building, ROTC

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posted: Thursday September 23, 2010

AUSTIN, Texas — ConocoPhillips Chairman and CEO James Mulva and his wife Miriam have given a $15 million gift to The University of Texas at Austin to construct a new Liberal Arts building, which will include a floor for the university's ROTC programs.

James Mulva is a Naval ROTC graduate.

"Jim and Miriam Mulva's gift demonstrates a deep commitment to The University of Texas at Austin and to ROTC," said university President William Powers Jr. "Through the Mulvas' generosity, ROTC will remain at the heart of campus for generations to come."

Powers will honor the Mulvas at an event on campus in the coming months.

"We've been looking for the right project so we could, in a more significant way, help support The University of Texas and its commitment to education and research," James Mulva said.

"I went through ROTC -- that's the only way I could attend UT -- so I really want to support ROTC students. For these young men and women, it's not about making money. It's all about service to the country. They're very dedicated and bright students."

In addition to space for the ROTC programs (which are part of the College of Liberal Arts), the six-story East Mall building will include 30 modern classrooms, student study areas and meeting rooms, and laboratories and offices for faculty. When it's finished in 2013, it will house Anthropology, Sociology, Geography, Linguistics, Plan II and Liberal Arts Honors, among other departments and programs.

For the first time, it will give Liberal Arts students a space of their own and create an environment in which faculty from different disciplines can collaborate more easily.

"The Mulvas' generosity makes our longtime dream a reality," said Randy L. Diehl, dean of the College of Liberal Arts. "This building will help propel us to greatness by giving us the space we need to teach our students, nurture outstanding research and foster a vibrant intellectual community."

Over the past year, college leaders have reduced the cost of the new building from more than $100 million to about $95.7 million by changing designs and taking advantage of low construction costs.

"The space needs for disciplines like anthropology have really changed. We need more lab space and more collaborative work space if we are going to do world- class research and attract the best students," said Anthropology Chair Sam Wilson, who heads the Faculty Building Advisory Committee and is on the advisory committee for the new building. "This building will be very versatile. It's going to serve the campus for at least 100 years in ways we can't even imagine."

It will be built on the site of Russell A. Steindam Hall, which is being torn down this fall. Steindam Hall has been home to ROTC for more than 50 years and was named for a graduate who was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his service in Vietnam.

Like Steindam Hall, the new building will have customized classrooms to meet the needs of the Army, Naval and Air Force ROTC programs.

"It looks first rate. It will optimize the training our midshipmen receive and ensure they're ready to lead our sailors and Marines," said Capt. Dan Dixon, commanding officer of Naval ROTC. "Our alumni are extremely supportive and passionate about the training of our ROTC students, and Mr. Mulva's gift reflects that."

Students will feel the impact immediately, said Carl Thorne-Thomsen, president of the Liberal Arts Council, the voice of college undergraduates. "Getting students from so many majors in a single place is going to be amazing. It's going to be a hub for ideas."

Mulva earned a bachelor's of business administration from The University of Texas in 1968 and a master's degree in business administration the following year. He then served four years in the Navy, including a tour in Bahrain where he and Powers, also a young Naval officer, first met.

The Mulvas have two sons -- including one who is on faculty in the Cockrell School of Engineering. In the past, they have made gifts to the Red McCombs School of Business and the Robert Strauss Center for International Security and Law.

"This is a time when ROTC is in need of new facilities on campus," said James Mulva. "For us, it's important, almost an obligation, that we give back to those institutions that have been important to us in our development. That includes ROTC. That includes The University of Texas at Austin."

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