Construction of the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus, as it is known, is expected to begin in the fall. Plans call for the first building to open in 2024 with a focus on research and graduate education in computer science and computer engineering. The goal is to grow to about 750 master’s degree students and 200 doctoral students.
David Calhoun, Boeing’s chief executive, said the company’s gift is meant to promote a skilled and diverse workforce. Calhoun said Boeing has eyed the campus closely in the years since it emerged as a venture to boost Virginia’s successful bid for the new Amazon headquarters. (Jeff Bezos, chief executive of Amazon, owns The Washington Post.)
“We want to be one of the early players on the campus,” Calhoun said in a videoconference interview Monday. “Its location, next to policymakers, is going to matter.”
Calhoun graduated from Virginia Tech in 1979 with a bachelor’s degree in accounting.
The Boeing gift will support a number of initiatives, Virginia Tech said, including scholarships to “attract, retain, and propel a diverse cohort” of master’s students and doctoral fellowships to attract a “highly skilled and diverse cohort of researchers.”
Funds will also be used to enhance student recruiting, academic support and programs to encourage military veterans and other nontraditional students to enroll. There are plans to collaborate with local public schools to build interest among younger students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
“The gift is immensely important,” said Lance R. Collins, who started with Virginia Tech in August as vice president and executive director of the Innovation Campus. “I want this to be the most diverse graduate tech program in the country,” he said. “This is going to make that possible.” Collins said he wants to draw various underrepresented groups, including women, African Americans, Native Americans and Latinos, to the campus.
“This is a milestone moment in our university’s history, and it will propel our work to help establish the greater Washington D.C. area as the world’s next major tech hub,” Timothy Sands, president of Virginia Tech, said in a statement. The university has about 36,000 students, most of them on its main campus in Blacksburg.
The first 79 Innovation Campus master’s students are based at a Falls Church, Va., location. They took courses online for this academic year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The new campus will occupy a 3.5-acre site in the Potomac Yard neighborhood south of Four Mile Run. The first academic building, with 300,000 square feet of floor space, will be 11 stories tall. It is on track for groundbreaking as early as September. Two more buildings are planned that will each have about 150,000 square feet.
The Boeing gift ties a philanthropic record for Virginia Tech set in 2018, when the university announced a $50 million gift from the Horace G. Fralin Charitable Trust and from Heywood and Cynthia Fralin to support biomedical research.