University of Maine civil engineering students will have better access to state-of-the art laboratory equipment thanks to a $75,000 pledge from a Gray company co-founded by the son of a professor who taught at the Orono campus for close to 40 years.
The gift from Gorrill-Palmer Consulting Engineers will be put towards an endowment to maintain and upgrade the Soil Mechanics Lab in Boardman Hall where each year approximately 100 students in civil engineering and construction management technology receive training on how to investigate subsurface conditions and materials.
“This is one way to give back to the university. It will help establish a predictable funding stream that’s independent of the legislative process,” said Thomas Gorrill, son of UMaine civil engineering professor William Gorrill who retired in 1986. Thomas Gorrill and his partner, Al Palmer, founded the engineering company in 1998.
The gift will help ensure that the UMaine students the company regularly hires are prepared for the workforce, said Palmer. “We’d like to see that graduates out of UMaine have a thorough knowledge of the fundamentals in geotechnical engineering because it’s the basis of all civil engineering projects,” he said.
In honor of the firm’s generous contribution the facility has been named the Gorrill-Palmer Consulting Engineers Soil Mechanics Laboratory. During a dedication in April, 2007, UMaine President Robert Kennedy thanked the company and its 24 employees, many of them UMaine engineering graduates.
“This is really a wonderful example of how companies in Maine can step up to the plate and make a lasting difference to the College of Engineering,” Dean Dana Humphrey said. Gorrill-Palmer is highly regarded in Maine and throughout northern New England for its transportation engineering work, he added.
The gift comes as part of UMaine’s $150 million capital campaign – the most ambitious in the history of the flagship campus — and makes the third named laboratory in the civil engineering department and the tenth in the College of Engineering.
Endowments are more important than ever because technology becomes obsolete so quickly, according to Humphrey. “We have to replace our equipment on a much more frequent basis and we need to have endowments like Gorrill-Palmer to provide that critical level of support,” he said.
A faculty member in UMaine’s civil engineering department for nearly 40 years, William Gorrill taught soil courses and was instrumental in hiring Humphrey as his replacement, the interim dean recalled.
The gift “is just a wonderful connection between father and son,” Humphrey said
His father “probably would be very pleased” about the gift, said Gorrill, who has maintained close ties with UMaine over the years. He is a member of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering advisory board. And he has been a guest speaker at the Orono campus on numerous occasions.
“The gift is going to be huge for us,” said Eric Landis, interim chair of the civil engineering department, noting that a first-rate lab would help recruit top faculty and students.
“We want to be a state-of-the-art facility and this will help us do that,” he said.