Ask anyone: turning thirty isn’t easy.
April marks three decades since the N. Eldon Tanner Building opened its doors for students and faculty. Over the years the glass-and-granite faade has witnessed unprecedented change: economic uncertainty, technological advancements, and the return of boy bands, skinny jeans, and the Muppets.
Sure, there’ve been growth spurts—including a 76,000-square-foot addition—but this Gen-Y structure is standing strong. After all, thirty is the new twenty.
Granite seemed like the right material—it was the corporate equivalent of a gray flannel suit.
Preparing the Way
By the early 1970s the expanding School of Management was desperately in need of more space. A committee of faculty and National Advisory Council (NAC) members began touring schools across the country to study the latest innovations in business education. Over the course of the next decade, the NAC played a vital role in raising $12 million for a new building—the first campus structure paid for with private donations.
A New Home
In March 1980 BYU president Dallin H. Oaks announced the construction of a management building to be named after N. Eldon Tanner, counselor to four presidents of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and known in his native Canada as Mr. Integrity—a title wished on every Marriott School graduate.
You are our hope for the future. It is your privilege and responsibility to make a better world. I wish I could live long enough to see how much better you will make it.
A site was chosen on the hillside north of the Richards Building, and architects at FFKR began mapping out the structure. The directive: create a state-of-the-art facility flooded with natural light. The atrium was an obvious choice. “People are attracted to great spaces,” explains Ken Louder, one of the original architects and CEO at FFKR. “Whether it’s a cathedral, Grand Central Station, or the Tanner Building’s atrium, there’s an inherent human reaction to being in a big room. It wraps around you in a different way.”
The Big Bang
The groundbreaking ceremony—presided over by President Spencer W. Kimball in November 1980—was unexpectedly memorable. “An explosive device was used to break the ground,” recalls Marriott School dean Gary Cornia. “President Kimball pressed the button, and ‘boom!’—we were showered with rocks. One young woman was actually knocked to the ground!” President Kimball was one of the first to her rescue. Luckily, she was fine.
Nearly fourteen years after the building was originally envisioned, the last tile was laid and lightbulb installed. The dedication
complete with ribbon-cutting ceremony and Tanner-emblazoned scissors—was held on 5 April 1983. President Gordon B. Hinckley offered the dedicatory prayer.
We thank Thee for those who have given generously of their means to make this building possible. May they, over the years, derive satisfaction from the knowledge . . . that their contributions have become a rewarding investment which will yield generous dividends in the lives of men and women for generations yet to come.
This facility will significantly raise the quality of its students' experience; it will allow the school to serve even more talented and capable young people who will be future leaders.
By the mid-2000s the Tanner Building was bursting at the seams—hundreds of students were turned away annually because there just wasn’t room. In response to the growing demand, the board of trustees approved plans for a major addition to the Tanner Building. Ground was broken in April 2007—this time shovels were used.
Funding for the $43 million addition and parking garage again came from private donations and included another campus first—a maintenance endowment to care for the structure after completion. Contributions began with a sizeable gift from the Marriott Family Foundation, a large gift from the N. Eldon Tanner Trust, and donations from NAC members, school administrators, faculty, staff, and alumni.
I remember walking through the building and seeing students reading in a janitor's closet. That hit home why we needed more group-study spaces.
When I walk into the Tanner Building, I automatically feel I can make a difference in the world.
Walk This Way
Connecting the original building with the addition proved a unique challenge for FFKR architect Mark Wilson. He originally envisioned rope bridges spanning the gap. Eventually he struck a compromise between high design and usability: glass skybridges. “The two-bridge experience is surprisingly interesting—as you’re walking on one, you can look to the other to get a full understanding of what you’re standing on,” he explains.
Into the Future
After less than two years of construction, the 76,000-square-foot addition was dedicated on 24 October 2008 by BYU MBA graduate President Thomas S. Monson: “Bless all students that they might recognize that they walk on hallowed ground when entering this building. May each one appreciate the past, contemplate the future, and work diligently in the present.”
Article written by Megan Bingham
Photography by Bradley Slade and BYU Photo