Toray Plastics (America), a manufacturer of polypropylene, polyester, bio-based, and metallized films for packaging and industrial applications, has pledged $2 million toward the proposed construction of new facilities for the University of Rhode Island's College of Engineering. The pledge is the first commitment of corporate support for the $125 million project that Gov. Lincoln Chafee's proposed budget recommends be placed on the 2014 bond referendum ballot, according to a news release.
"We at Toray are extremely pleased to support the College of Engineering in its endeavor to build state-of-the-art facilities," said Toray President and CEO Richard Schloesser." Our motto of 'Innovation by Chemistry' indicates our desire to grow our business here in Rhode Island, seeking new value-added enterprises. It will be mandatory that we seek out and hire the very best and brightest engineers. Currently, we employ over 100 engineers, close to 20 percent of our total workforce. We look forward to these new facilities that will attract the highest quality engineering candidates and upgrade the University of Rhode Island's competitive position."
"I'm delighted by the long and productive partnership between Toray and the University, and I'm tremendously grateful for this generous pledge to the College of Engineering," said URI President David M. Dooley. "URI engineers are innovators at the frontiers of their disciplines and are a crucial part of the state's economic revitalization. Toray's support will help to elevate the quality of our engineering teaching and research, which will help us attract top students and faculty and lead to an even greater contribution to economic development in Rhode Island."
The pledge is contingent on the passage of the bond referendum by Rhode Island voters in November.
The proposed College of Engineering building is needed because current facilities do not allow for the innovative research demanded by contemporary engineering firms and such research may be leveraged for economic development, the company stated. It will also accommodate a projected 18 percent increase in student enrollment, for a college that has seen the number of undergraduates grow by about 22 percent between 2008 and 2012.
According to Ray Wright, dean of the College of Engineering, the new building would significantly enhance URI's competitiveness in attracting research opportunities, as well as high caliber faculty and students. "This investment in new state-of-the-art engineering facilities is critical not just for the University but also for Rhode Island and its economy," he said.
The 195,000 sq-ft building would replace five existing engineering buildings on URI's Kingston campus -- Crawford Hall, Gilbreth Hall, Kelly Hall, Kelly Hall Annex and Wales Hall -- all of which opened in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The building would be home for seven of the University's eight engineering programs: biomedical, chemical, civil, computer, electrical, industrial and systems, and mechanical engineering. Six of the seven buildings that comprise the engineering complex have not undergone any major improvements in more than 50 years.
Toray Plastics has a history of supporting the URI College of Engineering. The company has contributed nearly $2.3 million in gifts, primarily supporting the Toray Plastics of America Inc. Engineering Fellowship and the Toray Plastics of America Inc. Scholarship for undergraduate students.
During the current academic year, more than 26 students have received financial assistance from the two Toray funds. The company also provides internships and sponsors special design projects for students to pursue during their senior year. This latest gift from Toray will significantly boost its overall support of the University and will provide the company with naming rights for the atrium of the proposed College of Engineering building.
The University of Rhode Island has awarded engineering degrees since 1893. The first class consisted of just five graduates, all in mechanical engineering. Since that era, the University expanded its engineering programs to form the College of Engineering, which currently enrolls 1,316 undergraduate students and 231 graduate students. In addition, the college's award-winning International Engineering Program provides a global perspective, allowing engineers to graduate with bachelors' degrees in engineering and a second degree in one of six different languages.
Engineering faculty members have been awarded 73 patents for their research in the last decade, and more than 4,000 URI engineering alumni live in Rhode Island and work at about 500 companies in the Ocean State.