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Building on tradition

The Samuel Ginn College of Engineering hosted a groundbreaking ceremony Saturday, Sept. 3, to celebrate the renovation of the former Textile Building, which has been renamed the Gavin Engineering Research Laboratory.

Thanks to gifts of $10.5 million made possible by Carol Ann and Charles E. Gavin III, the project will include the renovation of the Gavin Laboratory, demolition of the Engineering Shops and L Building, and creation of the Carol Ann Gavin Garden. The total cost of the project is $18 million, and site preparation began summer 2016. Construction is anticipated to be completed by spring 2018.

The building, which is located at 311 West Magnolia Ave. and was originally constructed in 1929 to prepare future engineers for the textile industry, has served as a vital component to economic development in the region and state for more than eight decades.

“Charles and Carol Ann’s generous gift will enable the college to retrofit the new laboratory with advanced technologies to serve students for the next 80 years,” said Christopher B. Roberts, dean of engineering. “This is very important as we continue to provide meaningful, hands-on experiences to students.”

An additive manufacturing facility will be incorporated into the building renovation to allow students to gain experience with emerging fabrication technology, as well as the new Center for Polymer and Advanced Composites to continue the college’s research in this area and to meet industry needs. The renovated structure will include traditional research laboratories, as well as a facility for the Nuclear Power Generations Systems Program and numerous collaborative meeting spaces.

The south entrance of the Gavin Engineering Research Laboratory will also be renovated to allow students more convenient entry to the building when coming from the heart of campus, while also providing accessibility to the proposed Brown-Kopel Engineering Student Achievement Center once it is constructed.

Charles E. Gavin III, ’59 textile management, has had a hugely successful career in both the textile and surfactant chemical industries. Gavin founded MFG Chemical, Inc. in 1981 in Dalton, Georgia, to serve as a supplier to the carpet industry. Highly successful today, MFG offers custom and toll chemical manufacturing to a wide variety of markets, including oil fields, water treatment, paper and mining. What began as a husband-wife team now includes three plants and a distribution center, serving a broad segment of the chemical industry’s top Fortune 100 companies and major international clients. Gavin serves as the board chairman, and he recently returned as CEO following the death of his son, Chuck, who previously served in that role.

Gavin and his late wife, Carol Ann, have made numerous contributions to Auburn Engineering, strongly supporting engineering education and work force development. In addition to the numerous scholarships he has provided through the Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists and its foundation, he also created an endowed professorship in chemical engineering prior to giving $8 million to the College of Engineering toward the renovation Gavin Laboratory. Most recently, the Gavins have supported Auburn basketball through gifts toward the practice facility in Auburn Arena with the team conference room being named in her honor as the Carol Ann Gavin Conference Room.

Gavin was named Distinguished Auburn Engineer in 2014, was inducted into the State of Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame in 2016 and is a member of the Auburn Alumni Engineering Council, Engineering’s Eagles and Keystone societies and the President’s Circle of the 1856 Society.