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A reopening ceremony for Old Dominion University's newly renovated Batten Arts and Letters Building will be held at 4:30 p.m. today in the west foyer. The event, open to the campus community, will include a reception and the dedication of the Charles N. Cooper Room, which houses the Institute for Jewish Studies and Interfaith Understanding.

Charles N. Cooper and his family are long-time supporters of education and the arts in the Hampton Roads community and at Old Dominion. Thanks to a $300,000 challenge grant from the Dudley Cooper Trust in 2002, ODU established both the institute and a minor in Jewish studies. The institute sponsors programs and activities about religious and ethnic diversity worldwide, offers two endowed lectureships each year (the Evelyn Kanter Endowed Lectureship in Interfaith Understanding and the Helen and Daniel Sonenshine Endowed Lectureship in Jewish Studies) and hosts a visiting professorship. This year's visiting professor is Ilan Avisar, an associate professor in the Department of Film and Television at Tel Aviv University.

ODU recently allocated $1.5 million from a multimillion-dollar Batten family grant to establish a permanent endowed chair for the institute and the Jewish studies program. The institute seeks to raise an additional $1.2 million to fully fund the endowment.

Renovations to the Batten Arts and Letters Building, or BAL, began in 2005 and include new glass additions at the east and west sides, which improve the look and identity of the main entrances. One office per floor of the BAL tower was transformed into a student lounge, featuring natural light. All of the classrooms were renovated and mediated with state-of-the-art teaching equipment. A new fire alarm and suppression system was installed, along with a new chiller and boilers.

The most interesting addition, however, is ODU's first "green roof," which was installed atop the west-side addition. According to Mollie McCune, project manager for the BAL renovations, this "best-management practice" offers a way to treat rainwater before it runs off the building and into the city's water system, eventually making its way into the Chesapeake Bay. Located on the roof are a number of containers filled with a type of plant called sedum, which helps to trap and filter the water before it passes through the drainage system. Green roofs, common in Europe, are becoming an increasingly popular solution to make urban structures both aesthetically pleasing and more environmentally friendly.

This article was posted on: February 1, 2008

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