Friday’s Dedication of Lacy Hall, Ann Warrick Lacy Experiential Center to Celebrate Hands-on Learning at U.Va.

October 07, 2013

The University of Virginia’s Lacy Hall and the Ann Warrick Lacy Experiential Center will be dedicated Oct. 11 at 11 a.m.

The building and center were made possible by a gift from Linwood A. “Chip” Lacy Jr., a 1967 chemical engineering graduate and 1969 graduate of the Darden School of Business, and his wife, Connie, a 1966 graduate of the School of Nursing.

Chip Lacy, a Midlothian resident and former CEO of Ingram Micro, has provided significant support to students and faculty at the School of Engineering and Applied Science for many years, with an emphasis on promoting student-run projects and experiential learning.

“I knew that getting hands-on experience made a big difference in students’ understanding of the way business works,” he said. “When I heard a presentation from students about what they learn from participating in these projects and the challenges they faced funding their efforts, I knew I wanted to help.”

One of the six goals identified by the Engineering School’s 2011 Strategic Plan is to prepare graduates for leadership by providing high-impact experiences that are sustained, purposeful and experiential. This includes opportunities to do research and engage in engineering practice, service learning, entrepreneurship and international study.

“We consider these practices to be essential to the education of 21st-century engineers,” said James H. Aylor, dean of the Engineering School.

“A growing number of our students participate in experiential learning – the process of creating understanding from direct experience,” he added. “Engineering is a service profession. We engineers solve societal problems by applying science and math fundamentals to real-world situations. The skills and abilities needed to do this cannot be learned exclusively in a classroom or from reading a text. They have to be learned firsthand, through experience.”

Providing students with educational experiences that deliver new levels of student engagement is also one of the five strategic pillars of the forthcoming U.Va. strategic plan.

“We know that experiential learning is one of the most profound and effective ways for students to acquire new knowledge,” U.Va. President Teresa A. Sullivan said. “Experiential learning, including close, collaborative interaction with faculty, is a hallmark of the U.Va. student experience. Facilities such as Lacy Hall that foster experiential learning are a great asset to the University and, most importantly, to its students.”

The 20,000-square-foot, four-story Lacy Hall was designed and constructed to support the needs of students engaged in experiential learning. The Ann Warrick Lacy Experiential Center is located on the third and fourth floors of the building. The third floor, which is at ground level, has large open spaces and a front door large enough to accommodate a vehicle. The fourth floor is divided into various areas, in an open design specifically intended to foster student interaction.

Programs and team activities that were previously distributed throughout the Engineering School and elsewhere are now gathered in the building, providing opportunities for students from different teams to help each other in common areas of technology. Students will have access to modern machine tools, including rapid prototyping tools that support the manufacture of parts and devices from computer designs.

The bottom two floors of the building, representing 10,000 square feet, are for use by U.Va.’s Division of Facilities Management.

“Sharing in the costs of the building allowed for a larger footprint and created an environment where our students will be able to work with and learn from working professionals as they design and construct their projects,” said George Cahen, professor in the departments of Materials Science and Engineering and Engineering and Society. As director of experiential programs, Cahen coordinates experiential learning at the school and is involved in many student-run projects.

Over the past five years, participation in student-run experiential learning projects at the Engineering School has grown from just a few activities with about 30 students participating to 20-plus activities with more than 600 student participants. Under the banner of project names like the “SAE Aero,” “Chem-E Car,” “VGEM,” “W4UVA,” “Wahoo Wizards,” “Steel Bridge,” “Hoos Flying,” “Concrete Canoe,” “Jefferson Satellite,” “Team PURA” and “Team Belize,” student teams have the opportunity to apply for funding  in support of equipment, tools, travel and competition entrance fees through a yearly gift Lacy has given for the past five years.

The impact of experiential learning on U.Va. engineering graduates is clear from messages that were received in honor of the dedication. “I would not be where I am today without my Baja SAE experience at U.Va.,” said David Ogburn, a 2008 alumnus. “Not only did my experience help my resume make it to the desks of hiring managers in the auto industry, but it taught me real-world engineering and leadership skills that gave me confidence in interviews and improved my potential as an automotive engineer.”

Faculty who have benefited from the use of Lacy funds for in-class projects agree on the impact of experiential learning. “What Lacy Hall provides me is a canvas on which I can create exciting experiential learning opportunities for my students,” said Archie L. Holmes Jr., associate provost and professor of electrical and computer engineering. “The ability for them to see how mathematical and scientific knowledge can be used to create useful things is powerful and is an essential component of educating engineers.”

Chip Lacy said the inspiration for his giving goes far beyond the walls of U.Va. “This country needs more education in science, technology, engineering and math, and anyone who can help, should,” he said.

Lacy made the gift for the building and center in honor of his parents, Linwood A. “Bub” Lacy and Ann Warrick Lacy. Additional gifts from Lacy included support for a lab in Rice Hall, ongoing support for experiential learning and the naming of a professorship in his father’s honor.

Lacy’s father was a U.Va. engineering student when he left to serve as a Marine fighter pilot in World War II. He flew 53 night combat missions in the Pacific and was discharged with the rank of captain. He joined his family mechanical contracting business, L.A. Lacy Plumbing and Heating Contractors, in 1946, and became the head of the company within a decade. He was a member of building boards for both Charlottesville and Albemarle County and served two terms on the Joint Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport Commission and 12 years on the Albemarle County Service Authority, six of them as chairman. He was a member of the Associated General Contractors of America for many years and was founding director of the Charlottesville Savings and Loan Association. He also formed the Junior Baseball League and served as its second president and was a member of the Virginia Engineering Foundation board.

Lacy’s mother was a homemaker and an active volunteer, including serving as a PTA officer at Venable Elementary School. In that role, she petitioned to have the school opened during the time when local schools were closed in resistance to desegregation. She also was a Brownie and Girl Scout leader and an avid gardener – a passion inherited from her father, who was an orchardist in Crozet. She was president of the Monticello Garden Club and started a scholarship – since renamed in her honor – for local residents who are interested in studying horticulture.

“Though my dad was not able to return to school to complete his degree, he and my mother remained loyal to the University throughout their lives. I am happy to be able to honor them through these gifts,” Chip Lacy said.

“In Bub and Ann’s honor many wonderful things have occurred at U.Va. and the education of U.Va. engineers has been forever changed,” Aylor said. “The possibilities for our students and graduates to positively impact society going forward is limitless.”

In addition to presentations by Sullivan, Aylor and Lacy, the dedication will include brief comments by Bo Jones, a 2005 graduate and founder of the Virginia Baja Racing team, and fourth-year student Andrew Jordan, the current co-president of the team. Following the formal dedication, tours will be available and student teams will be on hand to discuss projects on display.

Lacy Hall is located at 510 Edgewood Road on U.Va. Grounds, near the Slaughter Recreation Center.

Media Contact

Josie Pipkin

Director of Communications, School of Engineering and Applied Science