LINCOLN -- A new nanoscience building at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln will be named in honor of a Los Angeles couple who donated $5 million toward its construction.
The gift by Don Voelte and Nancy Keegan was announced Thursday at a ceremony outside the new Voelte-Keegan Nanoscience Metrology Facility. The $13.9 million building is scheduled to open in February 2012.
Voelte, 58, and Keegan, 51, are Omaha natives. Voelte, the retired CEO of Woodside Petroleum, the largest energy company in Australia, holds a civil engineering degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Keegan, whose grandfather was a dean at the University of Nebraska College of Medicine, is chair of the University of Nebraska Foundation. She holds an engineering degree from the Colorado School of Mines and a master's of business administration from Harvard University.
The couple met at a Texas convention while both were working as engineers. They have been married 21 years.
Keegan said she and her husband were planning to make a significant gift to the university in the future, but decided not to wait because of their enthusiasm for the nanoscience project.
"We feel they can do more with this money than we can," Keegan said. "We're very excited about this project and about the University of Nebraska."
Another portion of the funding for the building comes from a $6.9 million federal economic stimulus grant that was announced last year.
The 32,000 square foot building links to the 121,000-square-foot physics building completed last year. That building was named in honor of UNL alumnus Theodore Jorgensen, a Manhattan Project physicist present at the first atomic bomb test.
The Voelte-Keegan building is to help UNL boost its nanoscience research program.
Nanoscience is the study of very small particles, sometimes only a few atoms in size. It is used in electronics, information technology, medicine, agriculture and even cosmetics.
One UNL chemist, for example, is studying materials that could replace bones for people who suffer fractures that won't heal.
Voelte said his wife's family background in medicine, along with their mutual experience in engineering, helped spur their interest in the nanoscience program. He said that UNL's researchers are in the national forefront of the field and that he and Keegan want to help provide them high quality facilities and equipment.