Warner College celebrates homecoming with groundbreaking of Michael Smith Natural Resources Building

Nicole Towne

Just hours after the board of governors meeting, minutes before the homecoming parade and following the homecoming bonfire, ground was symbolically broken for the new Michael Smith Natural Resources Building as part of the Warner College for Natural Resources.

“The Michael Smith Natural Resource Building will add about 50,000 square feet to the college,”John Hayes, Warner College Dean said. “The new building will extend four stories high. It will contain state of the art class rooms and teaching labs.”


It will also hold meeting spaces, administration functions for the college and the Center for Collaborative Conservation.

The 20 million-dollar project is receiving roughly 40 percent of its funds from the university and 60 percent from donor gifts, Hayes said.

The Michael Smith Natural Resource Building will add about 50,000 square feet to the college. (Nicole Towne | Collegian)

Michael Smith, CSU Alumnus and chairman and chief executive of Freeport LNG which specializes in liquid natural gas, made the final contribution to the project to complete fundraising for the building. His 3.7 million dollar gift towards the building of the Michael Smith Natural Resource Center is only a piece of his recent 13 million dollar gift to the university. The remaining 9.3 million dollars is being put towards student scholarships and the Michael and Iris Smith Alumni Center, which will be located within the new on campus stadium.

“I am thrilled to have been able to provide the remaining funds needed to break ground on this much needed, and even longer awaited, natural resource building,” Smith said. “And, it’s truly a great honor to have my name on the building which young geo scientists will be studying the industry that I love so much. I have enjoyed being a part of the oil and gas business for most of my adult life. I have a particular love for geoscience which is a very important discipline in the Warner College of Natural (Resources).”

During the ceremony Ed Warner,1968 alumnus, shared the story of how the concept for a new building came into existence. About five and a half years ago, Warner his wife Jackie, Professor Joe Berry and his wife Joyce, who worked at CSU for over 27 years and served as the Warner College dean from 2004 to 2014, went for breakfast at the Egg and I on south College Avenue and started discussing the issue of space in the Warner College of Natural Resources.

“We started talking about a new building over coffee, eggs and pancakes,” Warner said … “We unfolded a napkin and we sketched out what we thought a building would kind of look like and then we jotted down notes all over it.”

With full bellies, the four came back to campus to try to imagine what their idea would look like in context of the surrounding area.

“We looked at the lay of the land and we knew we wouldn’t touch Sherwood forest,” Warner said. “It has historical significance to it and we talked all of this out.”

After describing the origins of the future building, Warner pulled the napkin out of his pocket.

“(The napkin), including the maple syrup spot on the corner of the napkin, is being donated to the Warner College and the dean has promised to have it framed and hang it from his office,” Warner said.


CSU President Tony Frank was present for the ground breaking ceremony and expressed his thoughts on the impact this project will have.

“This is an addition that will make a very big difference to the heart of this campus and will make a huge difference to one of the critical corner stone colleges that make up Colorado State University,” Frank said.

Before putting on construction hats and picking up shovels, Frank left the crowd with a comment inspired by his love for the Chicago Cubs.

“The two most important things to a successful season are starting pitching and a good closer,” Frank said. “Ed warner started this building and Michael Smith closed it out.”

“I think this building is getting kind of old and it could definitely use some renovations,”said David Han second year Fish and Wildlife Conservation Biology Major.

“I think it’s a great step towards advancing our college in terms of technology and student centered spaces.,” Han said. “I think it will be a great project for future students.”

Collegian reporter Nicole Towne can be reached at news@collegian.com.