By Marcene Robinson
Published October 13, 2023
Buffalo, N.Y.—Longtime School of Engineering and Applied Sciences benefactor and alum, Russell L. Agrusa, has made a $40 million commitment to support engineering and computer science education and the construction of a new SEAS building that will serve as a hub for student learning and activity.
Half of the donation—$20 million—is designated to the new building on the North Campus, which will be named Russell L. Agrusa Hall. The balance will be allocated for the advancement of engineering and computer science education.
The historic gift—the largest single contribution by an individual in school history—was announced on Oct. 13 by University at Buffalo President Satish K. Tripathi at his annual State of the University address. The donation was the final push to help the UB Boldly Buffalo campaign achieve its $1 billion goal. UB is the first SUNY institution in history to receive more than $1 billion through a comprehensive fundraising effort.
"Over the past 10 years, student enrollment in our engineering programs have risen dramatically. In tandem, the demand for STEM professionals has increased tremendously across the state and nation,” said Tripathi. “A new engineering building has been among our university’s foremost priorities. Thanks to an incredibly dedicated alumnus, we have received a transformational gift to move this building from design to concrete reality. Russ Agrusa, on behalf of our entire university, thank you for your philanthropic contribution to UB."
“We are immensely grateful for Russ’ generosity and steadfast commitment to the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. He has continuously dedicated his time, service and leadership to help us achieve our ambitions as a preeminent institution and provide a strong environment for the pursuit of excellence by our students,” said School of Engineering and Applied Sciences Dean Kemper Lewis.
“Gifts like this have an enormous impact on our ability to attract and support a diverse body of exceptional students,” said Lewis. “Everything about the new building will be designed to enhance the student experience. It will be a central gathering point where all students are welcomed and supported in a space that encourages them to pursue their intellectual curiosity and tackle the grand challenges that we, as a society, face.”
Agrusa, who graduated from UB with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1976, is the founder and former chief executive officer of international software development company ICONICS, Inc., which is part of the Mitsubishi Electric family of companies. In 2010, he received the Dean’s Award for Achievement, the highest honor presented by the school.
Through his philanthropy, Agrusa is committed to nurturing the next generation of students. He and his late wife, Paula, previously made gifts in support of several UB projects, including a student innovation competition in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering; and the construction of Davis Hall, for which they were honored through the naming of Agrusa Auditorium within the building. In 2021, Agrusa funded the construction of Paula’s Plaza, an exterior space beside the Jacobs Management Center honoring Paula, a 1978 School of Management alum.
Considering his own journey of discovery and leadership, Agrusa was excited by the idea of providing a physical place for students to take risks and collaborate across the many different disciplines within SEAS and across UB.
“My hope for this project is to change lives,” said Agrusa, who has also been a member of the Dean’s Advisory Council since 2003. "It’s not just a space for engineering students. We’re purposely creating an environment where students from all disciplines can collaborate. Something this large needs to be a hub that will bring people together."
The new building will be uniquely student-focused, housing collaborative and maker spaces for engineering and computer science student organizations and clubs, as well as the Dean’s Offices and Department of Engineering Education. Equipped with the latest technology for hands-on learning, the new building will also serve as a meeting point for student activities and entrepreneurship alongside learning and enrichment.
The $102 million project—supported by $68 million in funding from New York State—will allow the university to meet increased enrollment demand in SEAS, while also fostering the growth of the state's STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) workforce.