University breaks ground on Rowling Hall

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Photo Credit: Claire Schaper | Daily Texan Staff

After two years of architectural planning, Robert B. Rowling Hall, the new McCombs School of Business graduate building, is one step closer to opening.

UT-Austin President William Powers Jr., Robert B. Rowling, former System regent and UT-Austin alumnus, and other University officials broke ground Friday on the building at the corner of Guadalupe Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

Set to open in early 2017, Rowling Hall will include a café, an auditorium, a special events space and classrooms for graduate students in business administration and technology commercialization, according to a University statement. In a statement, Thomas Gilligan, McCombs School of Business dean, said the building would provide the necessary facilities for growing graduate programs.

At Friday’s groundbreaking, Rowling said the new building could push the business programs’ national rankings to the top. Last year, Forbes ranked the McCombs School of Business at No. 21 among the nation’s top business schools.

“There’s one goal here — to make this business school the best in the country,” Rowling said.

Rowling said Gilligan has started recruiting new faculty for the graduate program.

“It’s not about a building,” Rowling said. “As great as the building is, if we don’t fill it with faculty that’s the best in the country, then we’re failing.”

In March, Rowling pledged $25 million for the construction of the $155 million building, earning his namesake on the building. At the groundbreaking ceremony, Powers thanked Rowling and his family for their donation.

“It’s gifts like these that will affect the lives of the students and the leaders of Texas for years to come,” Powers said.

Eric Hirst, associate dean for McCombs Graduate Programs, said graduate students, alumni, faculty, staff and a design team developed the features of the building over the past two years.

“Collectively, we’ve designed a building that’s going to be a real game changer,” Hirst said. “It’s designed to attract a diverse set of talented students from around the world and to engage them with overlapping communities, faculty, alumni, society, the business community and thought leaders across campus and around the world.”