Lassonde Studios Will Nurture Young Entrepreneurs
By Kim M. Horiuchi
Mining magnate Pierre Lassonde’s best thinking usually comes about 4 a.m. He calls it surfing. “I come up and think about something, and then I go back to sleep again. A stroke of genius can happen any time of the day,” says Lassonde MBA’73, who wants to help University of Utah students harness their own middle-of-the-night creativity by bringing learning space and living quarters under one roof.
To do that, he has given the University $12 million toward a 148,000-square-foot facility for student entrepreneurs. The new Lassonde Studios, estimated to cost a total of $45 million, will replace an existing parking lot southeast of the Carolyn Tanner Irish Humanities Building and feature 412 apartments and residence hall rooms, along with 20,000 square feet of “garage space” for students to share ideas, build prototypes, and launch companies. “The idea is, if you wake up at 2 in the morning and you’ve got this great idea or if you’re just dying to work on something, you don’t have to put on your overcoat, get in your car, and drive five miles to your shop,” Lassonde says. “It’s right downstairs. You just go. It’s open 24 hours a day.”
Groundbreaking on the building is scheduled for this fall, with completion expected in fall 2016. Lassonde also has designated that $2 million of his gift be used to create the Troy D’Ambrosio endowed presidential chair in entrepreneurship, named for the current executive director of the U’s Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute, which will manage the new studios. Lassonde in 2006 donated $13.25 million to help start the institute, which is focused on providing students with a safe place where they can assume risks of business ownership and management. The Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute, a division of the David Eccles School of Business, is believed to be the largest entrepreneur center of its kind in the United States. “The Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute has a distinctive mission to provide hands-on learning experiences that allow students to test their ideas and succeed on their own terms,” says U President David W. Pershing. “[The new building] will make those opportunities available to many more students. We believe it is the first of its kind anywhere.”
Lassonde says he has made it a priority to “give time, give talent, and give treasure” after he and his late wife, Claudette MacKay-Lassonde MS’73 were able to find financial success, when they initially had faced meager circumstances. The University of Utah helped him along the way, he says. He became president of the gold division of Beutel, Goodman & Company in 1980 and then co-founded Franco-Nevada Mining Corporation with Seymour Schulich in 1982. They acquired royalties in a small mine in Nevada that was later developed into the Goldstrike mine by Barrick Gold and has since paid out $800 million. Lassonde describes finding the mine opportunity as the “discovery of three lifetimes.” Franco-Nevada merged with Normandy Mining of Australia and Newmont Mining of Denver in 2002 to create the world’s largest gold mining company at the time, Newmont Mining Corporation, with Lassonde as its president. In 2008, he led a group of investors who acquired Newmont’s royalty portfolio and created a new Franco-Nevada as the largest gold royalty company on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
“When you’re an entrepreneur, you know, you work your buns off but at the same time you do it on your own terms,” he says, “and that sense of freedom is really what motivates me.” By bringing young entrepreneurs together in a “live-in, creating center” at the University of Utah, he also hopes they will inspire each other. “Success begets success, and it pulls everyone else with it,” he says. “It’s like a nuclear reaction.”
—Kim M. Horiuchi is an associate editor of Continuum.
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University Renews Agreement with Ute Indian Tribe
The University of Utah and the Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation signed a memorandum of understanding in April allowing the University to continue using the name “Utes” for its sports teams. The agreement was signed by David Pershing, president of the U, and Gordon Howell, chairman of the Ute Indian Tribe Business Committee, at an event in Fort Duchesne, Utah, headquarters of the Ute Indian Tribe.
The five-year agreement, which will be reviewed annually, gives the U the tribe’s full support for the University’s use of the Ute name. The University also commits to funding scholarships for American Indian students, including a permanent scholarship category for Ute tribal members. The U also will work with the tribe to create enrichment and educational opportunities for tribal youth, with the aim of encouraging, inspiring, and supporting them to lead healthy lives and to pursue postsecondary education. And the University will appoint, with approval from the Utah Tribal Leaders Council, a special adviser to the president on Native American affairs, who will serve as liaison between tribal leaders and the U. “The tribe applauds the University’s commitment to respecting the Ute name and culture and to using the name in a manner that accounts for and promotes the interests of the tribe,” says Howell. “This agreement will do a lot to promote positive educational opportunities for Ute and other American Indian youth and will enhance the positive working relationship between the tribe and the University.”
The Ute Indian Tribe resides on the Uintah and Ouray Reservation in northeastern Utah. Three bands of Utes comprise the Ute Indian Tribe: the Whiteriver Band, the Uncompahgre Band, and the Uintah Band. The tribe has a membership of more than 3,000 individuals, with more than half living on the Uintah and Ouray Reservation.
“The University is honored to be allowed to continue using the Ute name, which the school has done with Ute Tribe support since 1972,” Pershing says. “We have pledged to do so with the utmost respect, recognizing that the Ute name is at the core of the cultural identity of the tribe and its members. In return, we are working actively with the tribe to promote and support access to higher education among its members.”
One key to the agreement is an education campaign for campus and fans about the history of the Ute Indian Tribe, as well as communicating standards for appropriate fan behavior. The campaign aims to promote cultural understanding in order to avoid behaviors and misunderstandings that dishonor the Ute and other American Indian populations.
U Appoints New Deans of Architecture and Science
Two deans have been appointed and will be starting their positions at the University of Utah this summer. Henry S. White, a Distinguished Professor of chemistry and former chair of the University’s chemistry department, will serve as the new dean of the U’s College of Science. Keith Diaz Moore, an architecture professor at the University of Kansas, will become the U’s next dean of the College of Architecture + Planning.
White, who joined the U faculty in 1993, is a world leader in the field of electrochemistry, performing pioneering research in energy storage and fundamental studies of what are known as reduction-oxidation reactions and electron-transfer reactions, and the structure of interfaces between metals and solutions. He was named a U Distinguished Professor in 2006 and has won several international awards.
At Kansas, Diaz Moore has served as both the chair of the Department of Architecture and associate dean for graduate studies in the School of Architecture, Design and Planning. He is a registered architect who has had a wide range of professional roles in Illinois, New York, and Wisconsin.
As a scholar, he examines the intersection of culture and design, with emphasis on environmental design for aging populations. During his tenure at Kansas, Diaz Moore instituted a new doctoral program in architecture, as well as interdisciplinary internship and study abroad programs and sustainable building efforts.
Korean Education Ministry Approves University of Utah’s Asia Campus
The Korean Ministry of Education in February announced approval for the University of Utah Asia Campus to be located within the Songdo area of Incheon, part of one of Asia’s largest free economic zones. The U will begin classes there in September, and students enrolling can choose from three undergraduate degrees: social work, communication, and psychology. The U will also offer one graduate degree in public health. Additional degree programs will be added to the Asia Campus offerings beginning in the fall of 2015, with the goal of 2,000 U students enrolled at the campus within six years.
In 2008, the University of Utah was invited by the South Korean government to be one of the first four U.S. and European universities to participate in this new global university campus. Students enrolled at the U Asia Campus will be part of a global student body that includes students from Belgium’s Ghent University, George Mason University, and the State University of New York, Stony Brook. Campus operations are financially subsidized by the Korean government. Read the related Continuum feature, “Global U.”
University Offers Solar Panel Discounts in Surrounding Area
The University of Utah in April became the first college in the country to sponsor a community solar program. The program offers U community members the opportunity to purchase discounted rooftop solar panels and installation for their homes. Two solar installers, Creative Energies and Gardner Engineering, will provide about a 25 percent discount to those who enroll through the U.
The limited-time U Community Solar program runs through October 1. Members of the U community, including faculty, staff, students, alumni, and campus guests in Utah’s Salt Lake, Summit, and Davis counties are eligible to participate. Homeowners will contract directly with the installers, and the panels will be installed on a first-come, first-served basis.
For more than 10 years, U students have paid a dollar each semester to reduce the impact of fossil fuel use by the University and to support local investments in renewable energy. Much of the money has been used to purchase renewable energy credits on the open market, and now a portion of those funds is being used for the one-time organization and promotion of the U Community Solar project. For more information on the program, visit www.mycommunitysolar.org/UCommunitySolar.
University of Utah’s Legislative Successes Include Campus Infrastructure Funds
Utah Governor Gary Herbert and the Utah State Legislature showed unprecedented support for higher education during the 2014 legislative session. The University of Utah had many successes, including funding for a modest but vital compensation increase for faculty and staff, as well as several million dollars in capital improvement funds to complete critical infrastructure repair on the U campus.
The U received $6.75 million in additional capital improvement funds, as well as bonding authority, to complete the University’s repairs and upgrades of aging infrastructure on campus, such as electrical and water lines. The Legislature also approved a 1.25 percent compensation increase for faculty and staff, along with an increase in funding to help cover health-care and retirement cost increases. And lawmakers passed intent language to give the University of Utah permission to continue with the design portion of the Gary and Ann Crocker Science Center.
Michigan’s Budget Director Joins U Presidential Cabinet
John Nixon MBA’02, former director of the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget for the state of Utah and most recently director of the Department of Technology, Management and Budget and budget director for the state of Michigan, joined the University of Utah in a newly created role of chief business officer in March.
The new position is a recognition that the University, a $3.4 billion enterprise, will benefit by augmenting the existing strong team. Nixon will focus on optimizing the use of resources and increasing administrative efficiencies.
Four Given Honorary Degrees at Commencement Ceremony
Four people received honorary doctoral degrees, the University of Utah’s highest honor, during the annual commencement ceremony in May: H. Roger Boyer, Richard E. Kendell, the late Lewena “Tye” Noorda, and Alex Smith.
Boyer BS’65 (and a master’s degree from Harvard University ) is chairman and founder of The Boyer Company, a real estate development company based in Salt Lake City. Kendell MEd’70 PhD’73 has served in nearly every imaginable position in education in the state of Utah, most recently as interim president of Southern Utah University. Noorda, who died in April, was a trustee of the Ray and Tye Noorda Foundation, which in 2012 donated $30 million to build the first dental school in Utah at the University of Utah.
Smith BS’04, who is quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs and a generous philanthropist, was also chosen to deliver the U’s 2014 commencement address. The class of 2014 is comprised of 7,947 graduates from 76 countries and all 50 states.