Community leaders gathered Thursday at the University of Nebraska Medical Center to celebrate the latest in the institution's building frenzy.
They broke ground on a privately funded $35 million pharmacy building near 41st and Emile Streets. Actual construction won't begin until February, but university officials wanted to hold the event while Chancellor Harold “Hal” Maurer, the master fundraiser, was still in office. Maurer, 76, will step down this year after 15 years as chancellor.
The building will provide fresh classroom and research space for the 275 students and 38 full-time faculty members in UNMC's College of Pharmacy.
Among those who attended the ceremony were Gov. Dave Heineman, Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert, NU President J.B. Milliken and Tim Clare, chairman of the NU Board of Regents.
The current College of Pharmacy building, on 42nd Street, will become a classroom and research building for the campus at large, said Dr. Courtney Fletcher, dean of the College of Pharmacy.
The new building will accommodate heavy research equipment that the current building can't hold. Further, it will better handle and filter fumes and toxic compounds that result from the college's growing mission of developing new medications.
The facility will have a long name — the Lozier Center for Pharmacy Sciences and Education and Center for Drug Discovery. Major gifts for the project came from Ruth and Bill Scott and the Lozier Foundation. The Scotts are Omaha philanthropists who have helped fund several UNMC buildings. The Lozier Foundation is supported by Dianne and Allan Lozier, who head Lozier Corp., an Omaha firm that manufactures store fixtures, such as display cases.
Completion of construction is expected in July 2015, the 100th anniversary of the founding of the university's College of Pharmacy.
Among UNMC's construction projects over the past five years have been a new College of Medicine building, a geriatric center, a 10-story research building, a College of Public Health facility, a Center for Nursing Science and a student plaza. Also planned is a massive cancer research tower and cancer hospital.
Fletcher said in an interview that he's been elsewhere, including with university medical centers in Minneapolis and Denver, and he's never seen a guy who could generate support better than Maurer.
Maurer is “the best, most effective fundraiser I've ever seen,” Fletcher said. “It's a gift is how I would phrase it.”
After he steps down, Maurer intends to work as a fundraiser for the cancer complex.
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