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Beyster gift will fund new NERS laboratories and innovation

$5 million of the $15 million Beyster gift to Michigan Engineering will renovate the Ford Nuclear Reactor building into new lab and office space for Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences.| Short Read

This is an updated version of the story that was originally posted on March 25th, 2012.

Entrepreneur, engineer, and philanthropist J. Robert Beyster, 87, has pledged a $15 million gift to the College of Engineering, the largest gift the college has ever received. The donation will fund doctoral fellowships, renovate the former Ford Nuclear Reactor Building and the Computer Science and Engineering Building (renamed the Bob and Betty Beyster Building) and contribute to the Center for Entrepreneurship to educate students and the community about the benefits of employee ownership.

“This gift will have a great impact on research and teaching. With the growth of new faculty we were short on lab space. The Nuclear Reactor Building is an ideal space for these new labs because it already has the specialized shielding for the neutrons and gamma rays,” said Ron Gilgenbach, chair of Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences and Chihiro Kikuchi Collegiate Professor.

Beyster, a four-time U-M alum (BSE EngM EngP ’45, MS LSA Phys ’47, PhD ’50), founded the largest employee-owned research and engineering firm in the US, Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC). The company started in 1969 and now employs 43,000 people, providing the government with solutions for national security, energy, the environment, health and cyber security. Known as an industry visionary, Beyster led SAIC in developing a portable homeland security system that utilizes high-energy gamma ray imaging for inspection of cargo containers and vehicles.

“The fields of energy and defense were greatly advanced under Beyster’s leadership of the thousands of dedicated scientists and engineers at his company,” said Gilgenbach. “It is fitting that his gift will help construct the world’s premier nuclear measurements laboratory.”

Five million dollars are intended for the renovation of the former nuclear reactor building. This space will house a unique NERS facility for accelerator-based, active interrogation of nuclear materials with gamma rays and neutrons. Laboratories will also be constructed for research on imaging, spectroscopic radiation detectors and thermal hydraulics experiments related to nuclear reactor safety. The gift will help provide numerous NERS faculty members, research scientists and students with state-of-the-art laboratories and office space in the 4-story complex.

“I hope that the research my gift will support will help keep the United States at the forefront of global innovation and competitiveness,” Beyster said. “I believe that the combination of capital improvements, fellowships and research I am funding will provide the right environment for this to take place.”

In April, Bob and Betty Beyster visited the U-M campus for the building dedication. They met with students, toured the College of Engineering, and even went to visit his boyhood home. In his blog, Beyster wrote of the event, “I feel good about the contributions that I have made to Michigan over the years. I owe a lot to the university – it’s the only place I went to college.”

Eleanor Shelton contributed this story.

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