UAF Names Engineering Building for the Late Joseph Usibelli

Aug 4, 2022 | Education, Engineering, Mining, News

Aerial View of UAF

The Joseph E. Usibelli Engineering Learning and Innovation Building on the UAF campus.

Todd Paris | UAF

The Engineering Building on the UAF campus is being named in honor of the late Joseph E. Usibelli Sr., who graduated from the school with an engineering degree in 1959.

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The UA Board of Regents voted in June to name the building for Usibelli. The former president of Usibelli Coal Mine died in mid-May after a long-term illness.

Usibelli’s father, Emil, started the coal mine in Healy, and Joe Senior became president of the company in 1964 when his father died. Usibelli turned over the company presidency to his son, Joe Junior, in 1987 but remained board chairman until his death.

“My family has strong roots at UAF,” says Joe Usibelli Jr., noting that both he and his father graduated from the university, as did several other family members. The mine has employed many UAF alumni over the years. Joe Usibelli Jr. also served on the UA Board of Regents from 1999 to 2007.

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“We know firsthand how beneficial the university is to the people, businesses, and communities of Alaska,” he says.

Joe Senior and his wife, Peggy Shumaker, directed their philanthropy toward UAF, creating the Emil Usibelli Distinguished Teaching, Research, and Service Awards and four endowed scholarships that support fifteen students each year. In addition, support from the Usibelli family and Usibelli Coal Mine helped UAF complete construction of the engineering building, finish expansion of the University of Alaska Museum of the North, and launch a campaign to renovate the museum’s Gallery of Alaska.

“Joe Usibelli’s philanthropic impact on the University of Alaska Fairbanks spans the disciplines,” says UAF Chancellor Dan White. “In particular, the three hallmark faculty awards given each year are made possible by the Usibellis’ generosity and their desire for a rich educational environment and overall faculty excellence.”

During its centennial year in 2017, UAF—originally established as the Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines—honored the Usibelli family as one of three philanthropists of the century.

The Joseph E. Usibelli Engineering Learning and Innovation Building opened for classes in January 2018. It added 130,000 square feet of new space, including a high-bay lab, nine teaching labs, nine research labs, two maker spaces, several new classrooms, and offices for the Alaska Center for Energy and Power.

The building was designed to the silver standard set by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program and, since opening, has outperformed those measures, saving the university approximately 30 percent in energy costs compared to other similar buildings. The building also contains sensors that allow real-time monitoring during high wind or seismic events, a first for a building in Interior Alaska and one of only a few such buildings in the state.

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In the February 2024 issue of Alaska Business, we engineered a special section that inspects the many ways architecture and engineering enrich our lives, from creating beautiful and functional spaces to crafting functional and safe transportation corridors. In addition to the built world in which we live, this issue celebrates small businesses and the many functions they provide, whether they're developing tools in the healthcare industry or opening new dining locations.

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