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Latest Gift from John Toups Supports Teaching Lab for Mason Engineering

Retired entrepreneur, civil engineer, and Northern Virginia businessman John Toups recently pledged $1.5 million to George Mason University. The gift supports the Sid and Reva Dewberry Civil, Environmental, and Infrastructure Engineering Department.

“The gift from John touches three aspects of our philanthropic efforts,” said Dean Ken Ball. “It enriches the student experience, maintains faculty excellence, and improves existing facilities. The school will benefit greatly from John’s generosity.”

Toups, a former chair of the George Mason University Foundation, has made a mission out of supporting Mason. For his efforts, he was awarded the George Mason Medal, the university's highest honor, in 2006. And during the 2017 commencement, the inaugural John Toups Medal for Excellence in Teaching was awarded to engineering professor Jill Nelson. That mission continues to move forward.

“When I began my education in civil engineering, spaces for lab work were limited. Because of this experience, I understand the importance of having a place where you can test and build, and collaborate,” said Toups.

The gift’s largest portion will benefit the department’s teaching laboratory on the first floor of the Nguyen Engineering Building. This lab is where civil engineering students test, build, experiment, innovate, and work in teams. In recognition of the gift, the teaching laboratory will be named the John Toups Instructional Laboratory for Civil, Environmental, and Infrastructure Engineering.

A second portion of the gift will support two faculty fellowships. The first has already been awarded to Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering David Lattanzi, who is engaged in research related to computer visioning in infrastructure and structural health monitoring.

“Lattanzi is a rising star with more than a million dollars of research, including grants from the Office of Naval Research and the National Science Foundation,” said Liza Wilson Durant, Mason Engineering's associate dean of strategic initiatives and community engagement. “The Toups Fellowship enabled us to invest in Dave as a faculty leader at Mason.”

The third portion of the gift will enrich the school’s graduate student experience by supplementing travel to conferences, summer study, and other programs.

June 1, 2018 / Adapted from a story by Martha Bushong