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Seven dignitaries with the shovels at the groundbreaking for the new Labovitz School of Business and Economics

Wednesday's groundbreaking took place under blazing skies. Left to right: Regent Patricia Simmons, Governor Tim Pawlenty, donors Joel Labovitz and Sharon Labovitz, Chancellor Kathryn Martin, Dean Kjell Knudsen, and Perkins+Will architect Jeff Ziebarth.

UMD breaks ground for new business school

By Gayla Marty

July 28, 2006

Gov. Tim Pawlenty joined Chancellor Kathryn Martin, donors Joel and Sharon Labovitz, and a crowd of other campus and community leaders July 26 to break ground for the new Labovitz School of Business and Economics at the University of Minnesota, Duluth. Excitement was palpable under sunny skies as the dignitaries donned hard hats and turned over a patch of dirt near another recent building--UMD's library--on the growing campus overlooking Lake Superior.

Over the past 10 years, UMD as a whole has seen a 40 percent increase in enrollment, creating a need for additional educational space. The Labovitz School will be the fifth new campus building since 2000. Its move into new quarters in 2008 will relieve some of UMD's space shortages by allowing other undergraduate programs to relocate.

The Labovitz School first opened in 1974. Enrollment has grown to 1,800 undergraduates and 60 graduate students--50 percent over the current building's capacity. Most undergraduate students come from Minnesota, and the part-time evening MBA program draws students from throughout the region. About 85 percent of the school's graduates stay in Minnesota.

Sharon and Joel Labovitz, seated at the ground breaking event.
Donors Sharon and Joel Labovitz attended ceremonies July 26. Joel Labovitz, UMD, '49, is a prominent Duluth businessman and taught the school's first courses in entrepreneurship. Photo by Brett Groehler.

"The building we're in is great, but it's just too small," says Labovitz School dean Kjell Knudsen, a faculty member since 1979. "The new one will be a wonderful house for an outstanding undergraduate program and very good graduate program. And there is no doubt that it will help us recruit students and faculty members."

Beginning in fall 2008, the new building will provide general-purpose classrooms, specialized academic teaching laboratory spaces, and a large lecture hall as well as faculty, administrative, and student support offices. Conference rooms and student gathering and study space will also be available.

The total project cost will be $23 million, funded in part by a $4.5 million gift from Duluth natives Joel and Sharon Labovitz and in part by $15.3 in capital bonding approved by the Minnesota Legislature in May.

Knudsen became dean nine years ago, when "enrollment was starting to explode." He's been a key part of the boom in business education at UMD, crediting Chancellor Martin for the leadership and the Labovitz family for the generosity to realize UMD's potential and benefit of the entire region of northeastern Minnesota. Knudsen enjoyed the humor and good feeling of Wednesday's events.

"It's a great testimony for the Labovitz family," says Knudsen. "When somebody gives back to the community as they have, it's a wonderful thing."

Green design

Architectural drawing of Labovitz School building.
Architectural drawing of the new building. See a larger photo in the UMD news release. Courtesy Perkins+Will.

Architects for the project are Perkins+Will, an international firm that excels in environmentally sound design. In Minnesota, the firm has also designed the Molecular Cellular Biology building and Translational Research Facility on the Twin Cities campus.

The three-story, 65,000-square-foot building will be the first public higher education building in Minnesota certified for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) by the U.S. Green Building Council.

LEED certification includes features such as efficient plumbing, heating, and cooling, use of recycled materials, a percentage of wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, and landscape preservation.

"The building site is interesting because part of the rainwater runoff goes into Tischer Creek and part goes into Oregon Creek," says UMD project manager John Rashid. "That's why we had to build two rainwater holding areas on different ends of the building."

Landscaping will retain and cool rainwater, slowing runoff into the creeks. UMD is a leader in adopting practices to protect Duluth's urban environment and the water quality of Lake Superior.

The builder for the project will be Olson J. Boldt Construction, UMD officials announced Monday. The same firm built the UMD library adjacent to the new building.


Among approximately 1,300 business colleges in the nation, the Labovitz School is one of only 425 accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International.

See also "Building management" (January 1, 2006) and "Minnesota Legislature funds $15.3 million for LSBE building.