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>  News Releases >   2004 >   March

Dartmouth receives $1 million challenge grant from the Kresge Foundation to support Kemeny Hall construction

Dartmouth College Office of Public Affairs • Press Release
Contact Roland Adams (603) 646-3661

The trustees of the Kresge Foundation have awarded Dartmouth College a $1 million challenge grant to support construction of Kemeny Hall, which will house the mathematics department and honor former president John G. Kemeny.

"We are grateful to the Kresge Foundation for helping Dartmouth recognize the important work of John Kemeny," said President James Wright. "John made the math department one of the finest in the country. The Kresge grant will allow our faculty and students to continue John's innovative work."

A renowned mathematician born in Budapest, Kemeny joined the Dartmouth faculty in 1953 and was appointed chairman of the mathematics department two years later. In the early 1960s he and colleague Thomas Kurtz developed a pioneering computer language, BASIC, and the world's first widely used time-sharing system, which gave users simultaneous access to a central computer.

As president from 1970 to 1981, Kemeny oversaw profound changes: the transition to coeducation, the recruitment of students of color, the renewal of a charter commitment to Native American education, and the guarantee of financial aid to meet the full needs of all admitted students. The author of several mathematical texts and a devoted teacher, he continued to teach undergraduate math throughout-and after-his presidency.

In 1979 President Jimmy Carter appointed Kemeny chairman of the committee that investigated the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant disaster. Kemeny described it as the year "a nuclear accident happened to the president of Dartmouth." His humor and presence through turbulent times was equaled only by that of his wife, Jean, herself a beloved figure in the Dartmouth community.

In 1992, when he died unexpectedly of heart failure at age 66, Jean said, "John and I were from two cultures, two countries: a Yankee from Maine and a Jew from Budapest. But it worked." The Kemenys were married for 42 years. Jean Kemeny died in 2003.

Kemeny Hall, a 60,000-square-foot brick and granite structure to be located just north of Baker-Berry Library, will reunite a mathematics department presently spread among three buildings. It will provide "smart" classrooms, laboratories, and common spaces for student-faculty collaboration.

"Planning Kemeny Hall has helped the math department set a direction for its future course," said Provost Barry Scherr, "particularly in the area of applied mathematics. Math is the core language of science. At Dartmouth, its application across disciplines will help our faculty and students advance their knowledge in both the classroom and the laboratory."

The Kemeny Hall project will cost $41 million. To date, Dartmouth has secured $15.4 million through long-term financing and an equal amount from alumni and friends. The Kresge Foundation grant is contingent on the College raising the remaining $11 million by April 2005. The foundation will also award an unrestricted bonus grant of $150,000 if the project receives Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

The Kresge Foundation awarded 138 grants in 2003, a total of $104,640,600. "Our trustees were pleased to support a range of organizations reflecting almost the entire breadth of the nonprofit sector," said John E. Marshall III, president and CEO of the Kresge Foundation. Grant recipients are institutions operating in the areas of higher education, health and long-term care, arts and humanities, human services, science and the environment, and public affairs. The foundation supports projects involving construction or renovation of facilities and the purchase of major capital equipment or real estate.

The Kresge Foundation is an independent, private foundation created by the personal gifts of Sebastian S. Kresge. It is not affiliated with any corporation or organization.

Dartmouth has television (satellite uplink) and radio (ISDN) studios available for domestic and international live and taped interviews. For more information, call 603-646-3661 or see our Radio, Television capability webpage.

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