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Vanguard: News from the College of Human Environmental Sciences

Innovation by Design

Gift Creates Robert and Marlese Gourley Family Studio for Innovative Design and Fabrication in College of Human Environmental Sciences

Robert and Marlese Gourley have made a gift to create the Robert and Marlese Gourley Family Studio for Innovative Design and Fabrication at the MU College of Human Environmental Sciences. The gift, which was announced by MU Chancellor Alexander Cartwright, will have direct impact on training the next generation of design leaders at Mizzou by enabling access to state-of-the art digital visualization and fabrication tools in the Department of Architectural Studies. The Gourley’s generous support will allow the Department to make major infrastructure improvements in the Immersive Visualization Lab and the Building Technology Lab – where students are visualizing and realizing projects as they prepare to compete at the highest levels in the architecture and design industry. These technological improvements will have a tremendous impact on undergraduate and graduate curriculum, as well as interdisciplinary opportunities at Mizzou.

"Student success means ensuring that Mizzou students have access to world-class learning opportunities, in and out of the classroom," said Cartwright. "In particular, hands-on learning experiences are invaluable because they give our students the skills they need to succeed in their careers. We cannot thank Marlese and Bob enough for their generosity and vision in helping us provide students with outstanding learning opportunities while fostering their entrepreneurial spirit."

Sandy Rikoon, College of Human Environmental Sciences dean said, "With the generous support of the Gourley Family, the Department of Architectural Studies is well-positioned for the future. The technological improvements we will be able to acquire will keep the Department in the standings as one of the nation’s premier architectural studies programs."

The Gourleys were inspired to make this gift in honor of the stellar faculty, particularly Dr. Ronn Phillips, who made such an impression on their daughter Anne, who graduated from the Department of Architectural Studies in 1995. Phillips’ work with establishing the building technology lab in 2003 offered students the opportunity to build out their ideas using power tools for woodworking. For over 15 years, the lab under the leadership of Professor Phillips instilled creative confidence in the students to implement their ideas in the real world. Our students’ success in their early careers was in large part due to their balance of skills in both digital tools and knowledge of construction. The Gourley’s gift will be an investment for the future of next generation design leaders from Missouri by enabling access to state-of-the-art digital visualization and fabrication tools in the Architectural Studies Department at Mizzou. This, in turn, will place them on the trajectory to become leaders at design firms once they graduate.

"This gift will provide our department with a unique opportunity to connect advanced visualization capabilities in the Immersive Visualization Lab with the latest fabrication tools in our Building Technology Lab," said Bimal Balakrishnan, chair of the Department of Architectural Studies. "This opportunity will allow our students and faculty to explore innovative workflows for design and construction in architecture and interior design."

The Gourley family’s relationship with Mizzou spans generations. While Robert Gourley is an entrepreneur who graduated from Southwest Missouri State University (now Missouri State University), Marlese Gourley is a retired educator and an alumna of the MU College of Education. Many members of their immediate and extended family have ties to MU, including their daughter Anne, their son David, and two grandsons, who are both undergraduate students in the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources.

What some may not realize is that Bob and Marlese Gourley have a philanthropic history with the college. In 2014, the Gourleys provided funding for a Children’s Learning Garden, created in partnership with USDA-Agricultural Research Services and designed by MU Landscape Services. The children from Mizzou’s Child Development Laboratory, which is housed in the Department of Human Development and Family Science, utilize the garden as an outdoor classroom where they learn about agriculture by planting, caring for and harvesting plants and they learn about nutrition by helping to plan and prepare meals using the vegetables that they have grown.

The Gourleys’ gift supports the Mizzou: Our Time to Lead comprehensive campaign. With an overall fundraising goal of $1.3 billion, the campaign will secure the University of Missouri’s status among the nation’s elite public universities.

From left: Bimal Balakrishnan, Ronn Phillips, Marlese and Bob Gourley, Dean Sandy Rikoon

Bob Gourley brings remarks at the announcement

Architectural Studies chair emerita, Ruth Tofle, introduces Marlese Gourley to Brad Eiffert, owner of Boone County Lumber and major contributor of the Building Technology Lab

The children from the MU Child Development Lab present gifts to the Gourleys from the MU Children’s Learning Garden

A banner showcasing the plan for the Robert and Marlese Gourley Family Studio for Innovative Design and Fabrication