New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) will name a new multi-story building this Friday after Saul K. Fenster, PhD, president emeritus of NJIT. Fenster, who led NJIT for 24 years (1978-2002), envisioned the ultra-modern building as the final piece of a portfolio of more than a dozen notable architectural structures that forever changed NJIT’s 45-acre urban campus and Newark’s Central Ward.
The six-story edifice, fronting Martin Luther King Boulevard, will be named Fenster Hall on Oct. 21, 2005 during a 6:30 p.m. ceremony. Although Fenster started the project, which now offers first-class teaching and administrative space, its completion was left to his successor, Robert A. Altenkirch, PhD, president of NJIT since 2002. The ceremony will include the dedication of a plaque, a pictorial review of the Fenster years and comments from Altenkirch, Fenster and Kathleen Wielkopolski, chair, NJIT Board of Trustees.
The $83.5 million building project includes not only the dramatic and starkly modern soon-to-be-named Fenster Hall, but also a matching and equally dramatic four-story campus center. The two buildings are the most visible emblems of a campus makeover that was completed this fall. Other elements include the sky bridge connecting Fenster Hall to the center, a 55-foot clock tower, a circular, glass-enclosed two-story dome dining hall, a European-style piazza and a new campus landscape. Architect Charles Gwathmey, of Gwathmey Siegel & Associates, New York City, designed the complex. Turner Construction Company built it.
When Fenster, a mechanical engineer, was named the university’s sixth president in 1978, NJIT was a commuter school renowned for its preparation of engineers with 5,000 undergraduates and no residence halls. Now the university enrolls an additional 3,000 graduate students and it has grown from a significant engineering college and architecture school to a comprehensive university comprised of six colleges.
In 1979, Fenster opened the university’s first residence hall, which was also Newark’s first university residence hall. Today, more than half of NJIT’s freshmen choose to live on campus. Fenster would eventually oversee the building of a new structure on the university campus nearly every year, which more than doubled the university’s physical size. In 2001, the university opened its fifth residence hall, the second designed for NJIT by internationally renowned architect Michael Graves. Other recent construction includes the Otto H. York Center for Environmental Engineering and Science, William S. Guttenberg Information Technologies Center, the New Jersey School of Architecture building, and a 1,700-car parking structure.
The university not only grew in size during Fenster’s presidency, but also in quality and diversity. From a relatively modest fraction of underrepresented minorities in the student population two decades ago, NJIT now ranks among the top 15 schools in the nation for student diversity (U.S. News and World Report) and in the top 10 percent of graduating minority engineers (National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering). The university annually grants approximately 75 doctoral degrees in 18 disciplines. Research funding stands at $74 million compared to $500,000 in the 1970s. In 1994, NJIT’s Carnegie classification was raised to that of a research-intensive university.
Fenster’s watch was so effective that in 1996, the state legislature named NJIT as one of three public research universities, describing it as “essential and necessary for the welfare of the state and the people of New Jersey.”