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Fariborz Maseeh ScD ’90 contributed $24 million to complete the construction in W1, which had stalled for lack of funds. Maseeh Hall is scheduled to open in fall of 2011 and will help expand MIT’s student population.
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A $24-million donation by Fariborz Maseeh ScD ’90 will allow MIT to finish renovation of W1 and expand the undergraduate population by about 270 students to 4,500 students, an increase of about six percent, MIT announced Wednesday.

Set to open next fall, the new dormitory will be called Fariborz Maseeh Hall (pronounced FAR-eee-borz MASS-eee). The increase in undergraduates will occur gradually over the next three years. Next year, the freshman class will be about 80 students larger, according to the Dean for Undergraduate Education’s office.

The MIT administration has long expressed a desire to return to having around 4,500 students from the current 4,232, but has been constrained by lack of on-campus housing. In the early- to mid-1990s, MIT had more students because freshmen were allowed to live at fraternities their first year, a practice that was banned after the drinking death of freshman Scott Kreuger in 1997.

More students will inevitably draw more resources, particularly in the GIRs. Chancellor Phillip L. Clay PhD ’75 said “those discussions have begun and will be continuing through the year.”

At this point, the construction on the exterior of W1 has been completed. With the announcement of new funding, construction on the interior is resuming. Construction had previously stalled because of lack of funding.

Maseeh fuels innovation

Fariborz Maseeh graduated from MIT in 1990 with a doctor of science degree in Civil Engineering. “I was a product of the education and assistance that MIT had in place,” said Maseeh, who sees his gift as a way of giving back to MIT. “With knowledge and training comes capabilities … with that comes responsibility.”

Maseeh considers his donation as an investment in the future of MIT and the nation at large. “Right now is a critical time because our nation is facing unprecedented global competitiveness,” said Maseeh, who hopes that an increasing undergraduate population will help fuel innovation and progress.

“Where better to invest than MIT?” Maseeh said. “What investment would give you billions of productivity?”

Maseeh’s gift is given with the intent to expand MIT’s undergraduate population. It is not explicitly slated for W1 construction, though the increased dorm space is critical for increasing undergraduates. Maseeh calls W1 “the most enabling part of this equation.”

“It is just spectacular what this gift will be able to establish for our undergraduate population,” said Dean for Student Life Chris Colombo.

Phoenix group will move in

The founding members of Maseeh Hall will be the Phoenix Group, a community of students that was formed in 2008 to serve as the core of the W1 community. A group of 50 students have been living in the new Ashdown (NW35) graduate dormitory since fall 2008 as a way to develop a culture and community before moving into W1.

“We’re absolutely thrilled,” said Suzanne Flynn, one of the Phoenix Group housemasters. Flynn expects there to be changes when transitioning from 50 students to over 400, but she has high hopes for the community that has been developing in the Phoenix Group.

“It’s a big challenge, but we’ve been preparing for it and we’re excited for it,” said Flynn. As of 2006, W1 was slated to open to undergraduates in 2008. The opening date was later pushed back to fall 2010. Opening was again pushed back to the current opening date of fall 2011.

Clay, who lived in W1 when it was a graduate dormitory, hopes that W1 will again become a gathering place on campus. “I remember what a wonderful building it was, even though it was ratty … it was a wonderful place for graduate students to gather.”

“We plan to have it pretty much filled next year,” said Clay, who did not anticipate any problems finding upperclassmen to populate the dorm. “It’s going to be a pretty exciting place.”

The dorm will be populated by members of all four years, with upperclassmen drawn from dorms across campus. “We don’t want to cannibalize any dorms,” said Clay.

Maseeh Hall will hold 462 students in singles, doubles, and triples. Floors two through six will be fully residential, with one residential wing on the first and ground floors. Floors two through six will each have two apartments for Graduate Resident Tutors.

There will be a 360-seat dining hall open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, making it the only dining hall open for lunch. There will be an additional common kitchen in the dorm for the use of undergraduates, which is expected to hold two stoves and two refrigerators and will also have cabinet space and an eating area.

“The design is incorporating some of the historical aspects,” said Sonia Richards, the project manager of the W1 construction. The lobby of the building will include a restored Guastavino tile ceiling, a self-supported vaulted ceiling. Woodwork throughout the ground floor will be restored and incorporated into the design.

Maseeh has contributed to MIT in the past. In 2003, Maseeh endowed a chair in Emerging Technology, currently held by Provost L. Rafael Reif. Additionally, an award for excellence in teaching in the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering is named for him.