Ogden businessman John E. Lindquist donated $5 million for the renovation of Weber State University’s Social Science building on Monday—the same day representatives from Weber presented the Social Science renovation project to the Utah Legislature.
The Legislature is currently in session, and one of their duties is to determine which state building projects get funding from the budget.
Representatives from Weber State have been working hard to bring in donations to renovate the Social Science building, which is estimated to cost approximately $35 million.
Lindquist’s $5 million gift takes Weber’s needed funding for the Social Science building to $30 million, which should have a positive impact on the project’s ranking at the Legislature.
State Senator and former President of Weber State Ann Millner said donations to projects like these not only “leverage the state dollars,” but they also show that the community supports these projects.
“This donation shows the community commitment to the project,” Millner said, “…that there’s a broader commitment to the project and that the institution (WSU) has worked hard with donors to bring in private funds.”
Millner also explained the process for getting this project approved at the Legislature: First, representatives for these projects present their case to the Infrastructure & General Government Appropriations Subcommittee, or IGG, who ranks the projects in order of who will get funding first.
After that, the IGG presents their decision to the Executive Appropriations Committee, who confirms the rankings, how many projects they will fund and how much money each project will get.
Milner said that renovating the Social Science building is an important project for WSU.
“Every student takes courses in that building,” Millner said. “It needs to be renewed for the next generation of students.”
Lindquist recognized that the Social Science Building is important due to its extensive use by multiple departments and by nearly every student who attends Weber.
“I wanted to be part of the university,” Lindquist said. “Everyone has to give back to the community.”
Lindquist expressed interest in helping the university when Millner was still president. Since then, he has worked with the current administrators to determine the best use and timing of his donation.
Now that Weber is asking for funding for the Social Science Building—and since donations from the community play a large part in the ranking of projects—the announcement of Lindquist’s gift came at an opportune moment.
While funding from the Legislature is still not guaranteed, Lindquist said of his donation, “By doing this , it brings this need closer to reality.”
Mark Halverson, director of campus planning construction and deputy and director of facilities, was one of the representatives who presented the proposal to the IGG.
Halverson said a few months ago, Weber representatives presented this project to the Board of Regents, who rank projects from higher education institutions. Weber’s Social Science renovation was ranked second.
That list was then sent to the Utah State Building Board, which considers other state agencies that don’t fall under higher education. The Building Board determined that other projects took precedence over the Social Science Building, which they ranked at eighth place.
“Normally, the Building Board respects the Regent’s ranking of higher education projects,” Halverson said. “This year, they didn’t quite follow that list.”
Part of the reason for the low ranking was because, at the time, the Social Science Building didn’t have any donations from the community to show the importance of this project.
Halverson said there isn’t the same surplus in the budget that the state has seen in past years, but with the Lindquist donation, the Social Science project may be ranked high enough to receive funding.
“Now it’s a waiting game,” Halverson said. “While I’m not pessimistic, I’m not really optimistic because there’s just not a ton of money (available in the budget). And because of the confusion in the different rankings, I don’t know where we’ll fall.”
Until then, the university will keep working to persuade the Legislature that the Social Science Building is in serious need of renovation.