Architectural engineering's Makers Space bolstered by alumnus gift


By Mariah Chuprinski

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Ted Lynch, architectural engineering alumnus and CEO of Southland Industries, and his wife, Sarah, recently contributed $100,000 to enhance Penn State Department of Architectural Engineering (AE) facilities.

Known as the Theodore and Sarah Lynch Equipment Fund for the Architectural Engineering Makers Space, the gift was used to purchase lab equipment and complete renovations for the department’s Makers Space, also known as the Building Makers Laboratory, an interactive, hands-on lab for architectural engineering students learning building design and structural engineering.

“I have been aware of the limitations of the department’s current facilities, and I wanted to make sure current undergraduate and graduate students, who may not be here to use the new AE building on west campus, have access to state-of-the-art lab resources today,” Lynch said.

Over the summer, the department renovated the Makers Space and added new furniture and lab equipment, complete with a laser cutter from Universal Laser Systems and two LulzBot TAZ 3D printers. It has become a popular workroom for students completing classwork and research as well as for AE faculty who can reserve the room for classroom demonstrations.

“The department’s new Makers Space allows our students to have access to a curiosity-driven learning environment that enables them to use experiment in a way that is only limited by their creativity and imagination and not by the limitations of the facilities around them,” said Anand Swaminathan, research technologist in architectural engineering.

Sez Atamturktur, Harry and Arlene Schell Professor and head of the Department of Architectural Engineering, agreed.

“The lab allows our students to foster their creativity and make hands-on discoveries using the latest technologies,” she said. “It has an emphasis on building automation, where students can evaluate new sensing and control approaches for buildings. Opportunities for technology-driven innovation are endless in the building industry, and our students are now positioned to lead the way.”

Lynch and his wife previously gave $200,000 to establish the endowed Ted and Sarah Lynch Excellence Fund in Architectural Engineering in the College of Engineering, which is used for general expenses at the discretion of department administrators. With this most recent gift, Ted Lynch becomes a member of the Mount Nittany Society, which recognizes exceptional donors to Penn State with cumulative lifetime giving of $250,000 or more.

Ted Lynch received a bachelor of architectural engineering degree in the construction management option in 1992 and went on to receive a doctorate in architectural engineering in 1996.

He enjoyed his time as a graduate student, saying it was challenging beyond anything he had ever done before yet also fun.

“At the time, I don’t think I fully realized what went into a Ph.D.,” Lynch said. “Along with providing outstanding instruction and research experiences, the AE program gave me opportunities to network with companies when they visited Penn State which ultimately helped me decide exactly what I wanted to do.”

Lynch started as an intern with Southland Industries in 1993 while earning his doctorate and worked up the ladder to become CEO in a career spanning 27 years. Throughout his time with Southland, he served in several roles including estimator, design and project engineer, project manager, preconstruction manager, contract executive, division leader, regional president and president. In 2012, Lynch was promoted to his current position as CEO.

Throughout his career, Lynch has recruited and hired Penn State AE graduates to work for Southland Industries.

“Having people who specialize and have deep technical knowledge in one area, but also have a broad understanding of the entire design and construction process, really fits the way we do business,” Lynch said. “The Penn State AE program is vital to our industry, especially with the continuing trend toward more collaborative approaches to delivering projects.”

Lynch was awarded the College of Engineering’s Outstanding Engineering Alumni Award in 2012 and has participated in AE’s Industrial and Professional Advisory Council (IPAC) for five years.

“I owe a lot to Penn State,” Lynch said. “Penn State has done so much for me and I have always felt compelled to give back. I decided to give a general facilities gift so the funds would go where they were most needed.”

“The Building Makers Laboratory will support the instruction of several courses in our curriculum and will be used by students from their first year to their doctoral degree,” Atamturktur said. “This facility has already become an integral part of our educational framework.”

This gift will advance “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” a focused campaign that seeks to elevate Penn State’s position as a leading public university in a world defined by rapid change and global connections. With the support of alumni and friends, “A Greater Penn State” seeks to fulfill the three key imperatives of a 21st-century public university: keeping the doors to higher education open to hardworking students regardless of financial well-being; creating transformative experiences that go beyond the classroom; and impacting the world by fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. To learn more about “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” visit


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Megan Lakatos

sarah and ted lynch

Ted and Sarah Lynch, of Radford, Virginia, recently gave $100,000 to enhance Department of Architectural Engineering facilities. IMAGE: TED LYNCH