Elon family makes gift to planned Innovation Quad

Generous support from the William E. Simon Foundation advances the future of STEM and cross-disciplinary studies as part of the Elon LEADS Campaign.

The William E. Simon Foundation, a family philanthropic organization with strong ties to Elon and dedicated to supporting education, is making a gift toward construction of the planned Innovation Quad.

Julie Simon Munro with daughters Gigi ’21 and Lola ’23 Munro.

Elon parent Julie Simon Munro P’21 P’23, a member of the Simon Foundation board of directors, announced the gift. The Innovation Quad, known as The IQ, will be a center for dynamic cross-disciplinary studies as well as the new home of Elon’s engineering and physics departments. Construction is anticipated to begin in 2021. The Innovation Quad is among the top priorities of the Elon LEADS Campaign and Boldly Elon, the university’s new 10-year strategic plan, which calls for advancing existing STEM programs, adding new STEM programs and expanding science facilities.

The Simon Foundation, based in New York, is historically a strong supporter of K-12 education and higher education. It was founded by William E. Simon and Carol Simon. William Simon was an entrepreneur, business and financial leader and philanthropist who served as U.S. Secretary of the Treasury from 1974 to 1977 and as president of the U.S. Olympic Committee from 1981 to 1985. He died in 2000 and wife Carol died in 1995.

Munro said giving back was instilled in her family by her mother and father. Her sister Katie Simon P’19 is also an Elon parent. The Simon Foundation has previously made gifts to support Elon’s Odyssey Scholarship Program and financial aid through the current Students First initiative created to help students struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“My father was a great patriot. He believed in the free enterprise system and he believed in giving back,” Munro said. “He was a self-made man and dedicated his life to helping others. We have all tried to do it to different degrees with our time and our money.”

James B. Piatt, Jr., vice president for university advancement, said the Simon Foundation’s generous gift toward STEM education at Elon advances a transformational campus vision that will reshape the future of the university.

“The Innovation Quad will be the connecting point for engineering and other STEM fields to studies across campus,” Piatt said. “We are grateful to Julie, the Simon family and the William E. Simon Foundation for playing a pivotal role in building the Elon of tomorrow.”

Munro called the Innovation Quad an exciting project and said helping ensure a bright future for Elon was an impetus for making the gift.

“Engineering is a very valuable major for those getting jobs out of college and it is a pursuit emerging at Elon with its new four-year program. We want to keep Elon on the map and support it being a great university,” Munro said. “A lot of students are majoring in engineering and they might choose Elon if it provides outstanding facilities like the Innovation Quad. It helps keep Elon competitive.”

The first two buildings of the Innovation Quad, called IQ1 and IQ2, will be located between the Dalton L. McMichael Sr. Science Center and Richard W. Sankey Hall, creating a connecting point between STEM education, the sciences and the Martha and Spencer Love School of Business.

The first two buildings represent the heart of the Innovation Quad and constitute the initial phase of a long-term investment by Elon into science, creativity and discovery that will be accessible to all students, regardless of their major. Future phases will include academic and residence halls, as well as a series of corporate-sponsored incubators and design hubs that will foster cross-disciplinary studies and collaboration.

Plans for the IQ1 facility include 20,000 square feet for large workshops and prefabrication spaces where physics and engineering students and faculty can take big ideas and transform them into prototypes. The two-story building will be the backbone of Elon’s growing engineering curriculum, which is now a four-year program. The facility will include design labs for engineering and physics, a mechatronics classroom, prefabrication labs, an astrophysics lab and student engagement spaces to spark innovation.

IQ2 will provide connected classrooms and labs, group study rooms and faculty offices. The three-story, 40,000-square-foot facility will be the home for cutting-edge, cross-disciplinary studies and research in biomedicine, computer science, physics, biophysics and environmental engineering. The facility will face McMichael Science Center on one side and Sankey Hall on the other, solidifying the connection of science to entrepreneurship, sales, design thinking and analytics.

Plans to move the engineering and physics programs to the IQ will pave the way for renovation of McMichael Science Center to support the growth in the university’s biology, chemistry, health and environmental studies programs.

Munro, of Larkspur, California near San Francisco, is the mother of Gigi Munro ’21 and Lola Munro ’23 and the aunt of Maddie Morris ’19. She is delighted with how her daughters and niece have flourished at Elon.

“I feel really blessed and honored to be able to give to Elon,’ she said. “It’s such a fine institution. I believe in it. My daughters and niece have done well there and we will continue to support it.”

About the Elon LEADS Campaign

With a $250 million goal, Elon LEADS is the largest fundraising campaign in the university’s history and will support four main funding priorities: scholarships for graduates the world needs, increase access to engaged learning opportunities such as study abroad, research and service learning, support for faculty and staff mentors who matter and Elon’s iconic campus. To date, donors have contributed $192 million toward the goal.

Every gift to the university—including annual, endowment, capital, estate and other planned gifts—for any designation counts as a gift to the campaign, which will support students and strengthen Elon for generations to come. To learn more about how you can make an impact, visit www.elonleads.com.