UW Tacoma breaks ground on Philip Hall

As much as Tacoma boosters point to the University of Washington downtown as a sign of the city’s rebirth, one thing is missing from the branch campus: a large auditorium for special events.

Yesterday, a group of UW staff, elected officials, and Tacoma residents gathered to change that during a ground-breaking ceremony to mark construction of the new $12 million, 500-seat William W. Philip Hall.

“We don’t have a large campus commons,” explained UW Tacoma Chancellor Patricia Spakes. “We don’t have a large auditorium. We can’t bring a big-name speaker to the campus. This will provide us with something we desperately need — a place to gather.”

The new building will be named after Philip, retired chief executive officer of Columbia Bank, and a long-time advocate for UW Tacoma. An endowment scholarship established in his name provides assistance to graduate students in Business Administration or Computing and Software Systems.

According to Spakes, the hall will provide a highly visible entry to UW Tacoma and a venue for public lectures, community events, arts productions, and fairs. The hall will also be home to a student commons designed as the heart of the campus community, where students and faculty can gather for informal study groups and meetings.

Funding for Philip Hall came from several sources. James A. Milgard pledged $2 million, and requested that it be named after Philip in honor of his efforts in the founding of UW Tacoma. The State of Washington chipped in $7.5 million. And donations totaling over $4 million also helped complete fundraising for the project. Some of the donors include the Gary E. Milgard Family Foundation, George and Dion Russell, Larry and Judith Kopp, Columbia Bank, the Ben B. Cheney Foundation, and The Greater Tacoma Community Foundation.

The general contractor for the building is John Korsmo Construction of Tacoma, and the architect is Thomas Hacker Architects of Portland, Ore. Construction is scheduled to begin in September.

When completed in Fall 2008, Philip Hall, located at 1914 Pacific Avenue, will host a new lecture series aimed to draw nationally recognized speakers to UW Tacoma. The series will be funded by a gift from Arthur R. Paulsen, who earlier established the Arthur R. and Anna Mae Paulsen Endowed Visiting Chair in Public Affairs in hopes that future generations of students will be inspired to become creative thinkers and informed citizens.

“It wasn’t just a nice thing to do,” said Milgard, who joined Philip to pose for photographs. The pair donned purple-and-gold UW hard hats and grabbed spades to turn dirt. “It was the right thing to do.”

Philip was moved by the decision to name the building in his honor. “This is the sort of thing you dream about when you are young,” he said.