The chairman and chief executive officer of Peter Kiewit Sons’ Inc. joined with the chancellor of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln Sept. 16 to announce the Omaha corporation’s support of a significant expansion of Nebraska Engineering.
The company’s $20 million commitment is a substantial contribution to an estimated $85 million engineering facility planned for Lincoln. To be named Kiewit Hall, the building will serve as engineering’s academic hub and will house Lincoln-based construction management programs.
“As stewards of our community and the construction and engineering industry, Kiewit is happy to not only support the College of Engineering’s physical expansion, but also the strategic efforts to grow UNL’s engineering program into one of the best in the country,” said Bruce Grewcock, Kiewit’s chairman and chief executive officer.
Chancellor Ronnie Green said Kiewit’s support is emblematic of the partnership between Nebraska’s Big Ten College of Engineering and one of North America’s largest and most respected construction and engineering companies. Kiewit and its executives have had a long history of support for Nebraska engineering, which offers programs in both Omaha and Lincoln.
“The powerful combination of Kiewit and UNL will significantly grow the impact of Nebraska Engineering,” Green said. “That is a top priority for the University of Nebraska. We are making great strides under the strong leadership of Dean Pérez, and I am so excited about the trajectory of this program.”
The Big Ten has many of the best engineering programs in the country. Nebraska’s partnership with Kiewit will boost its presence in that highly competitive field.
By 2026, Nebraska will need nearly 15,000 new workers in the engineering and computer science fields.
College of Engineering Dean Lance C. Pérez expects engineering enrollment at Nebraska to reach about 5,000 students within the decade, a 50 percent increase that would make it UNL’s second-largest college in terms of enrollment.
“The college is extremely grateful to Kiewit for this generous gift and continued partnership as we make critical investments to provide Nebraskans with world-class construction, computing and engineering education and research,” Pérez said. “We are truly gratified for the support from the state of Nebraska, the business community, and others.”
The Abel family of Lincoln is a second major contributor to the project. Jim Abel, chairman and CEO of NEBCO, and his wife, Mary, are longtime civic leaders and their family’s support for the university goes back three generations. The family has agreed to donate a parcel of land at 17th and Vine streets to the project.
Abel Residence Hall, located adjacent to the site, is named in honor of Abel’s grandfather, George P. Abel Sr. Abel also spearheaded the development of Haymarket Park, where Husker softball and baseball teams play. Most recently, the Abel Foundation was a lead donor for Hawks Hall, the College of Business building that opened in 2017.
Construction starts in October on the first phase of the expansion project, which was approved by the Nebraska Board of Regents in August 2018. Funded largely by a deferred maintenance package approved by the Legislature and Gov. Pete Ricketts in 2016, the $75 million renovation of the Walter Scott Engineering Center and Nebraska Hall, plus a 91,000-square-foot addition replacing a 1984 facility known as the Link, is to be completed in 2022.
If approved by the Board of Regents in October, Kiewit Hall will be built on the east side of the university’s existing engineering complex, east of Othmer Hall and across 17th Street. The building site includes the 17th and Vine streets parcel, currently a parking lot.
Other major donors have also responded to the university’s plans for a major investment in the engineering complex, including Robert and Joell Brightfelt; Hausmann Construction; Rick and Carol McNeel; Dan and Angie Muhleisen; Olsson; Union Pacific Foundation; and Don Voelte and Nancy Keegan.
Fundraising is actively continuing with engineering alumni and other donors so that all funds can be raised and this new building can meet its tentative completion date of 2023.
“We are grateful to Kiewit, Jim and Mary Abel and all the donors who are making this philanthropic investment in engineering,” said Brian Hastings, CEO of the University of Nebraska Foundation. “The university’s plans and commitment to engineering will help Nebraska address a critical workforce issue and we are grateful to the donor community for their partnership in making this investment in engineering possible.”
The partnership between Kiewit and the university represents a 285-year combined commitment to the state of Nebraska, building the infrastructure, growing the economy and educating the people of this great state.
Kiewit’s roots trace back to 1884, when brothers Peter and Andrew Kiewit started a small masonry contracting business in Omaha. It rose to national prominence under the leadership of one of Peter Kiewit’s sons, also named Peter, and has since grown to one of the largest construction and design engineering firms in North America. Kiewit delivers some of the industry’s most complex and challenging projects across seven different markets including transportation, oil, gas and chemical, power, building, industrial, mining and water/wastewater. The employee-owned company is home to over 11,000 staff, of which about 45% are degreed engineers.
Celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2019, the University of Nebraska–Lincoln is home to the sole College of Engineering in the state of Nebraska, supplying engineering education and leadership in technology-based economic development for the state, the nation and the world.
Nebraska’s first civil engineering classes were taught in 1877, with its first engineering student graduating in 1882. The Legislature approved a bill creating the College of Engineering in 1909. Now 110 years old, the Nebraska College of Engineering offers 12 nationally accredited undergraduate degree programs, 13 master’s programs and 11 doctoral programs. Nebraska Engineering programs are offered on City Campus and East Campus in Lincoln and Scott Campus in Omaha.