Davis Makes Historic Gift to UB Engineering

By Mary Cochrane

Release Date: September 2, 2008 This content is archived.


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Harvey G. Stenger, Jr. (right), dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, thanks local businessman John R. "Jack" Davis for his generous gift, which will fund a "clean room" in the school's new building.

BUFFALO. N. Y. -- John R. "Jack" Davis, a well-known Western New York industrialist who graduated from the University at Buffalo with a degree in engineering, has given $1.5 million to the UB School of Engineering and Applied Sciences in support of a new high-tech, flagship engineering building to be constructed on UB's North (Amherst) Campus.

The gift is the largest single contribution by an individual in the engineering school's 62-year history.

The Davis gift will support construction of the facility's "clean room," a complex structure devoid of airborne particles or contamination. Clean rooms allow intricate research in nanotechnology, electronics, biomedical engineering and other precise manufacturing fields. In honor of his generosity, the clean room will bear the Davis name.

"I received an excellent education at the University at Buffalo and this is my way of paying the university back for teaching me how to think," said Davis. "My engineering background helped me as an entrepreneur and business owner, teaching me the scientific and technical aspects, of course, but also how to manage accounting and human relations and all the other areas that allow a business to succeed.

"An investment in UB Engineering is an investment in our region and the place where I believe it will do the most good," said Davis. "Young men and women, educated right here in Western New York, will use their practical knowledge to solve problems here and around the world."

The new engineering building will modernize programs and facilities for the departments of computer science and engineering, and electrical engineering. Groundbreaking for the building, designed by renowned architects Perkins + Will, is slated for the summer of 2009. In addition to the clean room, the planned 130,000-square-foot structure will boast a "cybertorium" with sophisticated communications devices and smart technology and flexible research labs, classrooms and meeting areas for interdisciplinary work. The facility will allow UB to use existing buildings to expand its teaching in high-demand fields like bioengineering, and boost student enrollment. These goals are aligned with the UB 2020 strategic plan, which aims to grow UB by 40 percent and to invest in areas of strategic research strengths such as information and computing technology, integrated nanostructured systems and mitigation of extreme events and disasters.

"Jack understands that this region's future is dependent on the growth of high-tech, well-paying jobs in fields like engineering and technology," said Harvey G. Stenger, Jr., dean of the UB School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. "Jack's commitment to our new engineering facility will ensure that we successfully recruit top students and faculty, attract vital research funding and prepare graduates for successful careers in Western New York and beyond."

The new 5,000-square-foot clean room will be home to electrical engineering faculty members and their students creating everything from solar cells to biosensors to nanoparticles designed to treat human diseases. Located on the building's first floor, it will open onto the main hallway and large windows will allow passersby to view cutting-edge science as it happens. Faculty and students who work in the new UB engineering facility will be required to wear special uniforms to protect lab experiments from skin flakes or hairs.

"The clean room will be the most expensive room in the new building," said Stenger. "This gift will allow us to increase our new building's impact on Western New York employment and research. We're proud of Jack's accomplishments as an entrepreneur and business man and we are excited that he has decided to help us in this important project."

The new engineering building reflects a true "private-public" partnership between generous private donors and New York State. The state has provided $49.6 million to finance the basic building structure. UB Engineering is engaged in a fundraising effort to generate additional funds to enhance the function and quality of the building.

"Jack's investment is an important endorsement of UB Engineering and provides momentum for our fundraising effort and our plans for growth," said Stenger. "It's interesting to note that Jack's company, I Squared R, which began manufacturing heating elements in the 1960s, has successfully evolved to develop technology for solar panels, fiber optics and cell phones. That's engineering at its best -- transforming operations and working at the leading edge of industry, science and technology. Jack's investment will position UB Engineering as a school on the rise, in a region committed to engineering."

Davis was born in Pittsburgh and raised in Western New York. He graduated from Amherst High School and UB, earning a bachelor's degree in industrial engineering in 1955.

He served in the Marine Corps Reserves and as a deck officer in the Coast Guard. He left the Coast Guard Reserves as a lieutenant in 1964, and founded the I Squared R Element Company, Inc., that same year.

I Squared R holds the distinction of being the only U.S.-owned plant that manufactures silicon carbide heating elements, special heating elements designed for high-temperature electric furnaces. I Squared R is located in Akron and employs 75 workers. The company's products are made entirely in the United States.

Davis is active in politics, currently running for a seat in the U.S. Congress from the 26th District of New York State. He previously campaigned for the seat in 2004 and 2006, funding these campaigns with his own money. Davis has also sponsored numerous candidates for public office in races across Western New York.

Davis is married and has six children, 13 grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.

Media Contact Information

Mary Cochrane
Editor and Writer
UADV - Donor and Alumni Communications Development
Tel: 716-881-1703