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U.Va. Leaders Celebrate Bond Referendum Victory

A Smart VoteNovember 7, 2002

By Lee Graves

Virginia’s voters sent a clear message about the importance of higher education Tuesday by approving bonds to fund about $846 million for building projects at colleges and universities around the state.

The margin of approval was high — 72 percent statewide — as voters turned out in surprisingly strong numbers despite a blanket of rain across the commonwealth.

The bond package includes $68.3 million for nine projects at U.Va. The needs range from $24.2 million toward a new medical research building to about $12.5 million for infrastructure such as "chillers."

Passage of the bonds comes at a critical time, when state agencies, including colleges and universities, are beleaguered by budget cuts. Tuesday’s vote obviously raised morale around Grounds.

"For me, this vote is encouraging and inspiring. For Virginia and the public interest in the quality of life, it is a triumph," said University President John T. Casteen III. "It means that Virginians want the state to get back to work. And it shows that we are not divided on the priority that education has for Virginians. Nor are we divided on the necessity that the public take responsibility for the core financing of academic buildings in the public colleges."

People are asking for responsible use of public funds, Casteen said, adding that he believes that with passage of the bond Virginia will be able to build its way out of the recession.

The package touches many parts of the University — the schools of engineering and medicine, the College of Arts & Sciences, even Facilities Management.

Dr. Arthur "Tim" Garson Jr., vice president and dean of the School of Medicine, expressed gratitude for Tuesday’s result.

"We have the citizens of the Commonwealth to thank for their support. We pledge to use the new laboratory space to improve the health of those closest to us," he said.

The medical research building, called MR-6, is the University’s biggest single-ticket item among the projects. The $24.2 million will go toward the total cost of $50 million, with the remainder coming through private donations.

Another research project, the nanotechnology and materials science and engineering building, is receiving $7 million toward its total cost of $34 million.

"The vote is a reaffirmation of Jefferson's sense that dreams for the future are better than the history of the past," said Richard Miksad, dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science. "Funds for the new nanotechnology building will allow us to pursue our vision of becoming a national leader in the field. Nanotechnology is a growth sector that will bring new jobs, new companies and new resources to the Commonwealth."

In addition to facilities for research, the bonds will provide $14.3 million toward the College’s South Lawn project and pay for long overdue renovations to Fayerweather and Gilmer halls.

"The funds from the bond will permit us to rebuild the central infrastructure of the University's largest school," said Edward L. Ayers, dean of the College. "This news could not come at a better time, given the on-going hardship caused by the state's budget problems."

Tuesday’s referendum was the fourth time Virginians have voted on bonds for higher education projects around the state. A decade ago, citizens turned out in record numbers to approve spending $613 million around the state.

Then as now, the decisive results send a message.

"The success of the bond act demonstrates the support of the people of Virginia for higher education," Ayers said.

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