Campus dignitaries dedicate Chou Hall, newest addition to campus

UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol T. Christ at the Chou Hall dedication.
UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol T. Christ at the Chou Hall dedication. All photos: Noah Berger

The Cal Band marched.  Dignitaries spoke. A beloved donor inspired a standing ovation.

It was all in honor of Chou Hall, the newest campus addition, which was dedicated last Friday in a standing-room-only ceremony.

“A lot of people have truly gone beyond themselves to make Chou Hall possible, and the culture of giving back has never been stronger,” said Haas Dean Rich Lyons, who was joined by UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol T. Christ and University of California President Janet Napolitano in Chou Hall’s Spieker Forum.

Chou Hall, which opened last August and was 10 years in the making, was funded entirely by $63 million raised from alumni and friends. The building, which is used solely as student classroom space, opens at a critical time. Over the past 20 years, enrollment at Berkeley Haas has nearly doubled.

“We knew that the building would allow us to not just draw more students and grow, but to grow strategically,” Lyons said. “But I don’t think we could have imagined launching (the new undergraduate) M.E.T. program.. and launching all these new wonderful programs, and that’s part of what we’re all doing here together.”

A call to give

Perhaps the event’s most heartfelt words came from Kevin Chou, BS 02, who with his wife, Dr. Connie Chen, gave a gift of up to $25 million. The building is named to honor the couple.

Left to right: Building donor Kevin Chou, UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol T. Christ, Dean Rich Lyons, University of California President Janet Napolitano, building donor Ned Spieker, project manager Walter Hallanan.

Chou spoke of a love for Cal that’s deepened since he first stepped on campus as an undergrad. He reflected on how sharing a panel with entrepreneurship Prof. Toby Stuart in April 2015 at The Battery club in San Francisco kindled his philanthropic plan.

“It was that night that I learned about the need for the community to rally to make this project possible,” Chou said. “Toby’s love for teaching, research, and bringing students together with the technology community through Silicon Valley Immersion Week was a great reminder of love and inspired me to find out more about this project and how I could get involved.”

Chou, who introduced his wife and baby daughter, then gave a nod to “the love that Dean Lyons exudes through his leadership,”

“Dean Lyons, it is your leadership that this community of alumni love and believe in,” he said. “This space we are now in is a testament to your incredible work that has spanned over a decade.”

UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol T. Christ (second from right) and University of California President Janet Napolitano (right) celebrate Chou Hall.

Spieker Forum is named for building donor Ned Spieker, BS 66, who helped lead the funding effort by establishing a nonprofit entity to manage design and construction of the building. Lyons said Spieker’s efforts were “a fundamental part of what made this project go.”

Lyons also lauded building project manager Walter Hallanan, BS 72, as “the person who had to sweat every detail.”

“Walter and Ned made this work, while saving on time and cost,” Lyons said.

It takes a village

Napolitano said that Chou Hall embodies the Berkeley Haas Defining Leadership Principles: Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude, Students Always and Beyond Yourself. She added that the building is “an unprecedented testament to the generosity of the Berkeley Haas alumni.”

Chancellor Christ said that Haas students are “at the center of this building.”  She noted its natural beauty—the light pouring in from the windows, the sustainable materials used in construction, and the slick classroom technology that makes Chou Hall a state-of-the-art hub for student learning.

“It takes a village to build a building,” she said. “There are many, many partners who have joined together in making Chou Hall a reality.”

Sharifa Dunn, MBA 18 and the class president, expressed gratitude for the building and all that it’s done to enhance the learning experience at Haas for all students.

“I’ve had the unique experience of not having and having the building, so I know what it’s like to not have something as beautiful as this,” she said. “Up here…the view that this offers. This is why I moved to California!”

The Cal Band closes the Chou Hall dedication ceremony.
The Cal Band closes the Chou Hall dedication ceremony.

Chou Hall is the first academic building in the US designed to be both WELL and LEED Platinum certified, meaning it promotes the health and well-being of its occupants and is highly energy efficient and sustainably built. The building is also on track to become the first Zero-Waste building on campus by summer.

A plaque honoring Kevin Chou and Connie Chen hangs inside the building, inscribed with the following words: “We hope in this building students from all walks of life, experiences, and disciplines will come together to build a brighter future.”

After Chou read the words, the audience stood in applause. Then the Cal Band made a surprise appearance to close the ceremony, marching on stage in straw hats with cymbals and drums and singing the Cal fight song.