Leaders at Valparaiso University joined with community members to dedicate the $13 million Donald V. Fites Engineering Innovation Center, a state of the art addition to the current Gellersen Engineering and Mathematics Center, in a ceremony which took place on Oct. 29.

The new facility covers 13,470 square feet, and is made up primarily of laboratory and learning space for undergraduate engineering students. The project also includes a renovation of about 4,300 square feet of existing laboratory facilities.

The new building is named after Donald V. Fites ’56 CE, who is the retired Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of Caterpillar Inc. and a member of the Valparaiso University Board of Directors.

“Mr. Fites is one of the Valparaiso University’s College of Engineering’s most successful graduates, and is someone our engineering alumni and the University community greatly respect,” said Kraig Olejniczak, dean of the College of Engineering. “He has played a significant role in our past fundraising campaigns and is a major financial supporter of the College of Engineering. We are proud to honor the legacy of Mr. Fites with this new building.”

The Fites Center includes two suites of labs – designed to support advanced student research. One suite has labs for Materials Science, Materials Engineering and Structural Engineering. The second suite is the Energy Systems Suite, which includes the Engine Test Cell, Mechanical Measurements Lab, Fluid Mechanics Lab and Small Engines Lab. Caterpillar Inc. has donated high-tech engines for student research.

“My hope is that this facility will provide these engineering students a high-quality facility that will help create an educational experience that mirrors what they will be facing in the real world, providing them a foundation from which they will be better prepared to solve the future engineering challenges in the workplace,” said Fites.

One of the College of Engineering’s primary goals is to guide students in their transition from high school students when they enter the program to professionals when they graduate. The Senior Design space within the Fites Center is set up to mimic a professional office setting.

“Each senior student has his or her own work space and their daily routine is much closer to a professional workday than an academic schedule,” said Olejniczak. “This environment also fosters collaboration between all three disciplines in the engineering college.”

The College of Engineering is an exclusively undergraduate professional college, committed to teaching and operating in the independent Lutheran tradition of Valparaiso University.

In this year’s U.S. News & World Report rankings, Valparaiso University’s College of Engineering finished tied for 27th place nationally among undergraduate engineering schools, an improvement of four places from the year before.

Led by a readily accessible faculty possessing a rich and varied academic and professional practice background, the College of Engineering offers a comprehensive curriculum that stresses fundamentals while also providing a professional and practical experience. The College of Engineering provides a high-expectations, high-support environment, blending technical and non-technical education and enabling bright, aspiring young people to enter the engineering profession.

More information about the College of Engineering can be found at valpo.edu/engineering.