When the University announced two years ago that it planned to build a new home for the environmental sciences now located in Guyot Hall, that led to a big question: What would be the fate of Guyot, the last academic building to be built during the Princeton presidency of Woodrow Wilson 1879?
That question has been answered with the news that Guyot Hall will be “substantially rebuilt and expanded” to provide a new home for computer science, which has become the University’s most popular major and is coping with a lack of space. The building will be renamed for Eric Schmidt ’76 and his wife, Wendy, whose gift is supporting the work. The gift amount was not disclosed.
“Eric Schmidt’s brilliant career as a computer scientist makes the Schmidt name especially fitting” for the new home of computer science, President Eisgruber ’83 said in a statement. Schmidt was CEO of Google from 2001 to 2011 and later was executive chairman of Alphabet Inc., Google’s parent company. Wendy Schmidt, a businesswoman and philanthropist, is president of the Schmidt Family Foundation.
Construction is planned to begin in 2021 on a building to be located along Ivy Lane and Western Way to house the departments of geosciences and ecology and evolutionary biology (EEB), along with the Princeton Environmental Institute. Other engineering facilities are also expected to be built along Ivy Lane/Western Way.
Once the environmental sciences building is completed, Guyot will be vacated; the renovation work for computer science is scheduled to begin in early 2024 and to be completed in 2026. The University said the collegiate Gothic details of the brick exterior — which include 200 gargoyles of living and extinct animals along the roofline — will be preserved. The Guyot name — honoring the University’s first professor of geology and geography, Arnold Guyot — will also be preserved in another location, the University said.
Computer science faculty and staff are currently located in nine sites on and off campus, said department chair Jennifer Rexford ’91. She said moving the department into Guyot Hall demonstrates the importance of a central campus location that provides “a strong connection to the sciences” as well as to the Woodrow Wilson School and departments in the humanities.
Wendy Schmidt said the planned transformation of Guyot reflects the evolution of computer science “from something that was kind of ancillary and theoretical and abstract” when Eric Schmidt was an electrical engineering major at Princeton, to today’s world “where the application of computer science is important to the study of every discipline across the University.”
As the campus hub for data science, the building is also expected to house the Center for Information Technology Policy, the Princeton Institute for Computational Science and Engineering, and the Center for Statistics and Machine Learning, Rexford said.
Alumni may wonder about the fate of the geosciences department’s 25-foot-long Allosaurus skeleton that is a Guyot landmark. “We love the Allosaurus,” Eric Schmidt said, “but rumor is that the people who own the Allosaurus are taking it with them.”