Renovation Underway on "Smart" Classrooms in UM's Liberal Arts Building

Thanks to gifts from businessman and philanthropist Dennis Eck ’68 and his wife, Gretchen, the University of Montana’s College of Humanities and Sciences will soon have some of the most advanced technology on campus.
 
With the Ecks’ support, UM is creating a suite of “smart” classrooms in the college’s Liberal Arts Building. The gift will enable about a dozen classrooms to be upgraded, offering professors advanced audio/visual resources for their teaching and research. The Ecks’ gift will also help the college develop a plan for comprehensive building renovations.

Rendering of a technology-rich classroom.
 
“This new technology will enhance the kind of teaching, learning and research opportunities we can offer to our students and faculty,” said Dean Christopher Comer. “It is an immensely important step in our goal to renovate the Liberal Arts Building and move the College of Humanities and Sciences forward.”

Dennis and Gretchen Eck are among the newest UM Foundation Platinum Benefactors. This elite group of donors have given $1 million or more either outright, cumulatively or realized through their estate.
The smart classrooms will be easy-to-use, technology-rich and flexible environments that support and facilitate many teaching methods and learning styles, including distance education.


Planned technology enhancements include interactive smart boards and video walls, multiple LCD screens, video conferencing capabilities and links with tablets and computing devices. In addition, classrooms will receive aesthetic and environmental upgrades, like temperature control and modular furnishings.
 
In his business management career, which has spanned the United States and Australia, Dennis Eck discovered that technology benefited not only his customers and shareholders but also his employees. He appreciates the way technology integrates different methods of doing things and helps distribute information among staff.
 
“I am a fan of technology being used to help people,” he said.
 
He sees the same potential at the University of Montana.

“When I came for a visit to campus last year, I looked in the Liberal Arts Building, and not much had changed since the 1960s,” said Eck. “I thought, there is no reason you couldn’t take this building and bring it into a technologically modern era, to keep pace with the great professors you have.”
 
Dennis Eck graduated from the University of Montana in 1968 with a degree in political history. He says that his liberal arts education provided a foundation for critical thinking that has benefited him throughout his life. Now he is grateful to be able to give back.
 
“I’ve been lucky. Now it’s time to make a difference.”