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Woltoszes surprise former dean with Grand Atrium renaming

By Austin Phillips

Published: Apr 13, 2022 5:00:00 PM

Walt and Ginger Woltosz are among the university’s most ardent and dedicated supporters, so it was no surprise to everyone when they gave $5 million to the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering to support the construction and programming of the Brown-Kopel Student Achievement Center.

Well, almost everyone.

On Friday, April 8, the Woltoszes surprised former Dean and now President-elect Chris Roberts by naming the grand atrium in the Brown-Kopel Center in his honor. The area, which serves as the front door to the college, is now known as the Christopher B. Roberts Grand Atrium.

The space was initially named by the college in honor of the Woltoszes, but Walt wanted to name the space after the person who had the vision to make the facility a reality.

During the Brown-Kopel Center’s dedication ceremony in 2019, President Jay Gogue mentioned during his remarks that the facility was Roberts’ vision, and that spurred the Woltoszes to make the generous gesture. Although COVID postponed the Woltoszes being able to formally recognize the name change, they were finally able to unveil it in front of a packed house of Auburn alumni, administration, faculty, staff and students. Interim Dean Steve Taylor presided over the event, which featured speakers such as Gogue, Board of Trustee member Mike DeMaioribus, Interim Provost Vini Nathan, Engineering Assistant Dean and Director of Student Services Janet Moore and the Woltoszes.

“Chris had this vision for a student achievement center, and I wish we had known that before it was too late and all the names were put up,” said Walt, who earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in aerospace engineering from Auburn in 1969 and 1977, respectively, and an honorary doctorate from the university in 2021. “Well, Chris, it’s not too late.”

A visibly stunned Roberts gasped as the drapes were pulled back, revealing the formal name change.

“This was an entire college project. This was probably the best project I’ve ever worked on, by a really significant margin,” Roberts said. “But now, to know that you have done this, Walt and Ginger, I just can’t tell you how much I appreciate it.”

Media Contact: Austin Phillips, austinp@auburn.edu, 334-844-2444

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