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The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has its own law school on the campus of Brigham Young University, but it is now throwing significant financial support to an upstate rival.
The University of Utah on Friday announced it has received $4 million from the church for the construction of a new home for the S.J. Quinney College of Law.
The LDS Church and its leadership are not typically associated with the philanthropic largesse that has nurtured the state's flagship school into a research powerhouse. But Brigham Young himself helped launch the U. law school in 1850, only three years after arriving in the Salt Lake Valley.
"The church's involvement with the university [of Utah] goes back to its founding," said a U. news release quoting LDS Presiding Bishop Gary E. Stevenson. "The new, state-of-the-art law school building and those who will graduate from there will benefit the university and the community."
University officials plan to fund the entire $60.5 million project, which replaces the existing 1963 building along with the Great Depression-era Carlson Hall, with donated money. Construction is expected to begin in the summer of 2013, with the building ready for use by the 2014-15 academic year.
"The LDS Church and the College of Law recognize our shared interest in increasing education's global impact in a number of critical areas, including the development of democracy and the rule of law globally, new developments in health science, adaptations to emerging economic challenges and stewardship of the environment," said law dean Hiram Chodosh in the news release. "This gift will be invaluable in supporting our core commitments to student engagement and success, innovative teaching methodologies, and conducting research to address critical issues in society."
The university recently won legislative approval to sell bonds to finance the project (bonds will be repaid with donor money), as well as funding to operate and maintain the building.
By custom, the Legislature typically declines universities' operations and maintenance requests for capital projects built with non-state money.
The 155,000-square-foot project, which is still under design, is expected to reconfigure the northeast corner of South Campus Drive and University Street into an inviting campus gateway. It will also feature a 450-seat conference center to handle larger gatherings and attract outside events onto campus, which lacks midsize venues.
While upfront costs are on the high side, officials say the investments in LEED platinum certification and an attractive, long-lasting building will pay for themselves over time.
"We're dedicated to bringing the actual costs of the building down by virtue of energy efficiency, the use of smart materials to reduce the costs of repair and replacement over time, and to bring funds in through research grants and other sources," Chodosh said.