Howard University has been selected to receive nearly $71 million worth of engineering software and related computer technology to help prepare its students for jobs in the automotive and engineering fields.

The gift, the largest in-kind contribution in the university's history, was announced yesterday by Partners for the Advancement of Collaborative Engineering Education, a corporate alliance formed in 1999 by General Motors Corp., EDS, Sun Microsystems Inc. and UGS to enhance engineering, science and art education for potential employees.

"This is a tremendous vote of confidence in the university and in our ability to make good use of this program," H. Patrick Swygert, Howard's president, said yesterday in a telephone interview.

Swygert said the university had been in talks with PACE representatives for three years about joining the academic partnership, which currently includes 27 other educational institutions in the United States and abroad. The $70.6 million in-kind contribution encompasses computer-based product management, design, engineering and manufacturing software as well as hardware and training.

Existing facilities within Howard's School of Engineering and its design studio in the Division of Fine Arts will be retrofitted and revamped, hopefully by next academic year, to accommodate most of the new equipment and software.

"It's a fabulous recruiting tool," Swygert said. "Students coming to Howard interested in industrial design will have identical workstations, and the classrooms and the software will mimic what engineers are using out in Michigan."

Corporate executives from the participating companies were on hand yesterday at Howard, where Swygert said the gift will improve the university's interdisciplinary science and research capabilities.

Ed Welburn, a Howard graduate who is vice president of design for GM North America, said the software will include modeling and simulation programs, including "digital sculpting" to create three-dimensional computer designs.

"Whether designing new cars or creating fantastical worlds on the movie screen, digital sculptors are literally changing the way the world looks," Welburn said in a prepared statement. "So it is important that students have the opportunity to work with the latest math-based tools."

Swygert said Howard, founded in 1867, was invited to join the academic partnership based on its long-term educational relationship with GM; the strength of its engineering, design and science programs; and the school's willingness to develop curricula using PACE processes and products.

Howard University President H. Patrick Swygert called the gift "a fabulous recruiting tool" that will improve the university's science and research capabilities.