Washington University in St. Louis has announced a $15 million gift from alumnus James M. McKelvey, Jr. for a new building in its engineering complex.
To be located south of Preston M. Green Hall, the facility will house the university's Department of Computer Science and Engineering and support its data science efforts. In recognition of the gift, the building will be named in honor of McKelvey's father, James M. McKelvey, Sr., who served as dean of the School of Engineering & Applied Science for twenty-seven years.
An engineer, artist, and entrepreneur, the younger McKelvey earned bachelor’s degrees in computer science and economics from WU in 1987 and, following graduation, took a job with IBM while teaching glassblowing on the side. He is a co-founder of Square Inc. and co-founded LaunchCode, a nonprofit organization that helps companies find skilled workers and provides free coding courses for those seeking a career in tech. He currently serves as a partner for Cultivation Capital, a venture capital firm he co-founded in 2012 that invests in tech and life sciences companies. In 2000, McKelvey co-founded Third Degree Glass Factory, one of the most successful glassblowing schools in the world, and he is the author of The Art of Fire: Beginning Glassblowing, a leading textbook for novice glassblowers.
After completing his undergraduate, masters, and doctoral studies at WU, McKelvey, Sr. joined DuPont, where he became a pioneer in the field of polymer processing. In 1954, he joined the faculty of Johns Hopkins University, and in 1957 he returned to WU as an associate professor of chemical engineering. In 1962, McKelvey was named department chair and later became the seventh dean of the university's engineering school, a position he held from 1964-1991. He remains an active volunteer for the university.
"We are tremendously grateful for the McKelvey family's deep and lasting contributions to our university," said WU chancellor Mark S. Wrighton. "They have been involved in nearly every way imaginable. With this generous gift, Jim Jr. further enhances his family’s commitment to the university and helps us honor his father’s remarkable legacy at the School of Engineering & Applied Science."