A new building named after Carolyn and Kem Gardner will replace Orson Spencer Hall as home to the U’s College of Social and Behavioral Science and numerous associated centers and institutes.

A ceremony to mark groundbreaking for the Carolyn and Kem Gardner Building took place on Friday, Oct. 28, at 10 a.m., at the Marriott Library Plaza. The Gardners joined U President David W. Pershing, Senior Vice President Ruth Watkins and other dignitaries at the event.

“We hope that this new structure will be a place where students can learn and grow together,” said Carolyn Gardner. “Both Kem and I are alumni from the U and some of our favorite experiences here were in the classroom learning from amazing professors and in the halls befriending fellow students. We’re excited to provide today’s U students with a facility that fosters both exceptional education and close community.”

Carolyn Gardner addresses audience at the unveiling ceremony for the new Carolyn and Kem Gardner Building.

PHOTO CREDIT: University of Utah

Carolyn Gardner addresses audience at the unveiling ceremony for the new Carolyn and Kem Gardner Building.

Carolyn and Kem Gardner provided a gift of $10 million toward the $68 million project. The building is expected to open for classes and research in fall 2018.

Carolyn Barnes and Kem Gardner met while they were undergraduates at the University of Utah. In the ensuing four decades, Kem Gardner became a business mogul with a successful real estate development company; he currently serves as chairman of the Gardner Company. Carolyn Gardner was a teacher for several years and now is a math and English tutor at Mountain View Elementary. She also serves on the advisory board for the U’s School of Music.

In addition, both are actively engaged in other community service and philanthropic work. From Intermountain Healthcare, United Way to the Utah Symphony and especially the University of Utah, the Gardners’ influence and generosity are reflected across the state of Utah.

Orson Spencer Hall, known as OSH, was opened in 1955; its namesake was the first chancellor of the University of Deseret, which became the University of Utah. The outdated building no longer provided adequate space or amenities for the College of Social and Behavioral Science—the largest college at the university, which accounts for 27 percent of undergraduate degrees awarded annually.

The College of Social and Behavioral Science encompasses seven departments, five programs and several institutes and centers, including the Social Science Research Institute and the National Center for Veterans Studies. All will be located in the new building, along with the Hinckley Institute of Politics, the Office of Global Engagement and the newly created School for Cultural and Social Transformation.

In addition, the Gardner building will house 33 classrooms, two auditoriums, conference and project rooms, collaborative laboratory facilities and several student study spaces. Key features include:

  • University of Utah Welcome Center, which will showcase the array of high quality, comprehensive student opportunities available at the university, from academics to athletics, leadership to learning and classroom to career for prospective students and their families.
  • Collaborative Social Science Advising Center, which will allow students to get critical information in a timely and integrated, one-stop way from advisors who are cross-trained across majors. The center also will house a Social and Behavioral Science internship coordinator, ensuring students know about the wide variety of opportunities to be engaged in the community and can easily get career and job-seeking advice. An online coordinator also will be housed in the center to help students get the most from online courses.
  • A cutting-edge, joint laboratory shared by the departments of Geography and Anthropology that, along with the Environmental and Sustainability Studies Program, will foster interdisciplinary research, student training and community engagement focused on how humans have adapted to environmental change, how current environmental trends fit into the historical record and development of practical policy solutions for managing environmental problems.
  • The Social Science Research Institute will include a Political Science Experimental Laboratory, a Behavioral Economics Laboratory, a Secure Data Center and two research cluster groups — the Consortium on Families and Health Research and the Society, Water and Climate Research Group. The Political Science Experimental Laboratory will allow faculty and students to conduct experiments not possible in the past.

In addition to the Gardner gift, other donors who contributed funds for the new building include Chartwells Higher Education, the Emma Eccles Jones Foundation, Rocco C. Siciliano, the Meldrum Foundation, Jeffrey K. and Sarah S. Scott and the Richard and Leslie Haskell Family Foundation. Significant funding also will come from student fees.

“Ours is a leading institution for social and behavioral sciences, and we know that this new facility will only ignite further research, discovery and progress in these areas on the U campus,” said Pershing. “We’re grateful to the donors, and particularly Carolyn and Kem Gardner, for both their monetary gifts and intangible support for this building.”

Kem and Carolyn Gardner with U President David W. Pershing at the unveiling ceremony for the new building named after the Gardners.

PHOTO CREDIT: University of Utah

Kem and Carolyn Gardner with U President David W. Pershing and his wife Sandi at the unveiling ceremony for the new building named after the Gardners.

The Carolyn and Kem Gardner Building was designed by MHTN Architects and will be built by Okland Construction Company.

Media Contacts

Maria O’Maradirector of communications, University of Utah
Office: 801-581-5180

Brooke Adamscommunications specialist, University Marketing & Communication
Office: 801-587-2130