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FDU Celebrates Groundbreaking for New Monninger Center for Learning

$1 million donation helps get construction of $20 million learning center underway.

officials, faculty and staff celebrated the groundbreaking for a new library center at the Florham campus Tuesday.  The  new building, which will feature Internet access, a lecture hall, and classrooms is scheduled to open in the fall of 2012. 

John and Joan Monninger donated $1 million for the new construction which is set to begin immediately and result in a new facility designed to foster learning, research and interaction between students and faculty. A 1965 FDU graduate, Monninger had been in the auto business for 30 years. He had two dealerships – Manhattan Jeep, Chrysler, Dodge and Bergen County Dodge in Ramsey, N.J.

“When asked why Joan and I made the donation to FDU, I always reply that Fairleigh Dickinson was there for me when I needed it,” Monninger said.  “FDU gave me the solid foundation I needed to move forward in the world and I greatly appreciate it.  Joan and I feel truly blessed, humbled and fortunate to be able to make this contribution.” 

“Today we begin a new chapter at the College at Florham,” said FDU Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Patrick Zenner. “We break ground for the Monninger Center for Learning and Research. There are two parts to this nearly $20 million dollar project. First, we will construct a new building. Part two is the renovation of the existing Library—the Orangerie—which is the original building from the Vanderbilt-Twombly estate.”  The two buildings will then be joined as one, Zenner said. 

Kenneth Greene, College at Florham Provost, said renovated reference and circulation rooms will have newer technologies to facilitate Internet access for online research. The new center will enable an increase in book holdings by 40,000 volumes, and also house the Academic Support Center and Freshman Writing Center, said Greene.  

“The renovated Orangerie will be a comfortable place for students and faculty to study and meet to discuss, research and events of the day,” said Greene. “The Orangerie will serve as an attractive home for University events, such as dinners and President’s receptions.” 

The new building will also hold small classrooms and a 100-seat lecture hall with state of the art electronics that will support the ‘learning beyond the classroom’ initiative, according to Greene. 

University President J. Michael Adams said that Fairleigh Dickinson University is transforming into an internationally recognized institution of higher learning.  The Monningers helped to fund the new Center, but also precipitated donations from others. 

“Their donation was the first million-dollar gift to Fairleigh Dickinson University in decades,” said Adams.  “It was quickly followed by four more gifts of a million dollars. More than $63 million in gifts and commitments have been made to the University. Our capital campaign, FDU NOW, has exceeded its $50-million target.  This year alone, donations to the University will top $12 million.” 

The new facility is a metaphor for the crossroads of learning for students and faculty, said Adams. 

Architect Michael Farewell said the new construction is sited next to the Orangerie, part of the original campus and designed by New York architect Stanford White at the turn of the last century.  

“The Orangerie was the frontispiece for a greenhouse complex,” said Farewell.  “The Twomblys actually grew food here and had a commercial operation.  To locate a new building next to the Orangerie is a bold move.  Our strategy has been to take the Orangerie as a point of departure, create a new glass pavilion that is symmetrical, and a make new entry between the two pavilions.” 

Farewell said the Orangerie will be restored with new systems, will be more useful for receptions, and feature a student café, but the historic fabric will be preserved.  "The new building is two stories and about 20,000 square feet," he said "It will have a lot of glass just like the original greenhouse. It’s also a sustainable building. All the occupied space will have day lighting and systems designed to run efficiently to foster social interaction in a sustainable way.”

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