Campus Celebrates New Edith O’Donnell Arts and Technology Building at Formal Dedication


Students, faculty and staff welcomed longtime UT Dallas supporters Edith and Peter O’Donnell and their guests to the Nov. 7 dedication of the new Arts and Technology Building named in Mrs. O’Donnell’s honor.

The 155,000-square-foot building was designed by STUDIOS Architecture – the same firm that designed Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. It includes a 1,200-seat lecture hall, a motion capture lab, soundproof chambers and 3-D fabrication labs, as well as classrooms for game design, sound design and visual arts among others.

An audience of more than 1,000 people stood to greet the O’Donnells with rousing applause as they took their seats on stage in the lecture hall. Peter O’Donnell said that naming the building for his wife is a fitting tribute because the Arts and Technology Program (ATEC) reflects her enduring passion for arts and technology. 

Edith and Peter O'Donnell

Edith and Peter O'Donnell, longtime higher education and UT Dallas supporters, shared a moment during the dedication ceremony.

Mr. O’Donnell remembered the campus as little more than a cotton field in the 1960s. Texas Instruments co-founders Eugene McDermott, Cecil Green and Erik Jonsson had established the research institution that formally became UT Dallas in 1969. In less than 50 years, “with inspired leadership, consistent support from the business sector and the magnificent generosity of Margaret McDermott, UT Dallas has become a highly respected research university,” Mr. O’Donnell added.

“When we first toured the building two weeks ago, we thought it was breathtaking. And we’ve been in a lot of art buildings all over the world. But this one is exceptional. We felt the energy and excitement of the students and faculty. Edith observed that the building inspires creativity. And Edith knows creativity. ATEC is well-positioned to solve new problems in a whole new way,” O’Donnell said.

UT Dallas President Dr. David E. Daniel reflected on the couple’s longtime relationship with the University, praising Edith O’Donnell as “a benefactor and leader in championing the cause of the arts and education,” and her husband, Peter, as a “force for excellence.” 

ATEC students stood and were recognized by President Daniel, who pledged to them that “in this building you will develop extraordinary talents and skills at the intersection of art and technology.”

Dr. Dennis Kratz, dean of the School of Arts and Humanities and holder of the Ignacy and Celina Rockover Professorship, said the building’s design embodies the philosophy and goals of the ATEC program. He concluded, “We resolve to build a comprehensive ATEC Program, internationally respected, second to none, where students and faculty explore the convergence of the arts, technology and science in a rich humanistic context.”

Dr. Francisco Cigarroa, chancellor of The University of Texas System, and UT System Regent Ernest Aliseda both spoke during the dedication. Other guests included a number of legislators and city council members from Richardson and Plano.

Chancellor Cigarroa said he always senses the academic rigor on campus during his visits. “Every time I drive through UT Dallas, I just feel brainpower,” he said. “It’s remarkable.” 

He commended the ATEC program as “one of the most innovative 21st century programs in The University of Texas System, if not in this great United States of America, bringing the arts and humanities together with science and technology in a fusion of creative thinking.” He also thanked the O’Donnells for their philanthropy to the entire UT System.

Student work was on display during the dedication ceremony and throughout the day as guests took self-guided tours of labs and studios. As guests arrived, photographs of the new building were projected on a large screen in the lecture hall, demonstrating the creative ability of the students enrolled in Professor Marilyn Waligore’s photography classes. Students in the UT Dallas Woodwind Quintet performed as the audience gathered for the ceremony, and senior lecturer Kelly Durbin played the piano as people filed into the lecture hall.

After the dedication ceremony, students, faculty and staff mingled with guests and gathered outside to admire the building’s facade, as well as the stainless steel “X” sculpture commissioned by the Nasher Sculpture Center for the city-wide exhibition, Nasher XChange. The steel sculpture and a wood replica displayed inside the building were created by the internationally renowned artist Liz Larner.

Student Government President Liza Liberman said, “This building symbolizes the amazing growth of our campus. I think students realize how fortunate we are to be here and have wonderful facilities like the ATEC Building. And the building itself is really cool, so I know the students get a kick out of that.”

Growing Program, Building Foster Collaboration

ATEC has expanded from 138 students during its first year to 1,120 students this fall – including those pursuing bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. The building and program are both designed to spark ingenuity and collaboration among the arts, engineering, computing and design fields. Faculty and students from the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science, the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, and the School of Arts and Humanities will share lab space, classrooms and offices in the new building. 

Online Building Tour

Take a floor-by-floor virtual tour of the new Edith O'Donnell Arts and Technology Building to see some of the key features of the building.

For naming opportunities, click here. 


"Engineering, science and technological skills are essential for students entering the workforce. When these skills are amplified by an understanding of the arts, they will produce richer solutions to real-world problems and jobs. This gives me confidence that our future workforce will be in the best of hands."-- Peter O’Donnell

“I can tell you that the University of Texas System stands taller because of Edith and Peter O’Donnell. We thank you with all our heart for all you have done, and all that you continue to do, at the University of Texas campuses and our health centers. Your wise counsel and guiding hands are steering our institutions toward greatness – and will benefit higher education in Texas for decades to come.” -- Dr. Francisco Cigarroa, UT System Chancellor

“The Edith O’Donnell Arts and Technology Building is spectacular and we are so, so grateful that Mrs. O’Donnell allowed us to honor our University by sharing her name with this building. This is an exceptional and complex facility, and we are only just beginning to appreciate all the dimensions it will offer our students and faculty as its full utility is realized.”-- Dr. David E. Daniel, President of The University of Texas at Dallas


Elected officialsin attendance

Also attending the dedication ceremony were UT System executive vice chancellor for academic affairs, Dr. Pedro Reyes; former chairman of the UT System Board of Regents and co-chair of the Realize the Vision Campaign Council, James Huffines; former chairman of the UT System Board of Regents and honorary co-chair of the Realize the Vision Campaign Council, Jess Hay; former U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison; U.S. Congressman Pete Sessions; state representatives Angie Chen Button, Pat Fallon, Linda Harper-Brown and Van Taylor; Richardson Mayor Laura Maczka and members of the Richardson City Council; and Plano Mayor Harry LaRosiliere. 

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].

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