Photo: University of Alabama System Board of Trustees, UAH Foundation, Representatives of local and state governments, members of the military, members of the family of Raymond B. Jones, community leaders and UAH faculty, staff and students were on The University of Alabama Huntsville campus April 14, 2023, to break ground for the new Raymond B. Jones Engineering Building. (Michael Mercier | UAH)
The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) held a groundbreaking ceremony today for a new 80,000-square-foot engineering facility that will be named in memory of Raymond B. Jones, long-time business and community leader and past chairman of the UAH Foundation. The facility, which received initial approval by The University of Alabama System Board of Trustees in April 2022, will provide cutting-edge resources to support the largest college at UAH, comprising more than 2,850 students, as well as 90 faculty and staff.
Huntsville and North Alabama comprise both the fastest-growing region of the state and a high-tech hub with a continual need for a highly educated STEM labor force. The new Jones Engineering Building will feature modernized, world-class research and collaborative teaching facilities that will ensure UAH continues to meet the state’s workforce needs.
“The University of Alabama System Board of Trustees, Chancellor St. John and the UA System leadership understand the significance of a modern facility and what this means to UAH’s future growth, and I want to thank them for their leadership and guidance,” said UAH President Dr. Charles L. Karr. “In an effort championed by Senator Tom Butler, Governor Ivey and the Alabama State Legislature appropriated funds to make this needed building a reality, and we will forever be indebted for their commitment to higher education here in Huntsville, especially in the fields of engineering and science. I also want to thank the UAH Foundation, chaired by Dag Rowe, for its significant support. Mr. Jones was a past chairman of this philanthropic body, and because of his leadership, this university was set on a path for exponential growth.”
Raymond B. Jones, Sr., was born in Knoxville, TN, in 1935, to engineer Carl T. Jones and his wife Betty. In 1939, his family bought a farm in Jones Valley in Madison County where G. W. Jones & Sons Consulting Engineers had been founded by his grandfather. Raymond Jones became president of G.W. Jones upon the death of his father in 1967, and as CEO oversaw numerous engineering design and municipal projects before his passing in July 2022. For his business and civic leadership, Jones was awarded the Distinguished Service Award from the Huntsville Madison County Chamber of Commerce. He received an honorary doctorate from UAH in recognition of his tireless support of the university.
“Ensuring the growth and success of UAH is one of our top priorities, and the groundbreaking of this transformative building is a testament to that commitment,” said UA System Board of Trustees President Pro Tempore W. Stancil Starnes. “The Jones Engineering Building will be integral to UAH’s role in supporting the region’s workforce, research and educational needs, and we are confident it will favorably impact this community for generations to come. The future is bright for UAH.”
UAH, a part of The University of Alabama System, is classified as R1 – “Very high research activity” status – among doctoral-granting universities by the Carnegie Classification of Institutes of Higher Education. Five of UAH’s research programs currently rank among the top 20 federally funded programs in the U.S. Fiscal year 2021 marks the tenth year in a row UAH has had five or more research programs ranked in the top 25 nationally for federal research funding.
“UAH is known for our talented faculty and students who go on to be some of the brightest leaders in the national security, space exploration, healthcare, arts and business sectors,” said President Karr. “The Huntsville community is known for our remarkable STEM labor force, and the Jones Engineering Building will enhance our students’ experience.”
Phase I of the project received Stage II approval from The University of Alabama System Board of Trustees at its April 2023 meeting. Phase I is estimated to cost $62.38M and includes plans for new construction that will replace the Wernher von Braun Research Hall, a building constructed in 1964. The new facility will be located west of the existing Engineering Building, adjacent to the campus lake along John Wright Drive.
“This new building will serve as a centerpiece for UAH, enabling us to recruit the very best and brightest students from all 67 counties in our state, from states across the nation and beyond,” said Dean Mahalingam. “It will enable us to graduate engineers with B.S., M.S.E. and Ph.D. degrees who will contribute to filling the rapidly growing workforce needs of our region and our state. Today is indeed a historic day for the College of Engineering at The University of Alabama in Huntsville.”
All stages of this multi-phased project are subject to approval by the UA System Board of Trustees.