A Generous Donation

$5 Million Dollar Gift to Help Renovate the Social Science Building

The much-needed renovation of Weber State University’s Social Science building has received a $5 million gift from a longtime university advocate and contributor. 

John E. Lindquist, president of Lindquist Mortuaries and Great Western Insurance, pledged the money to help with an extensive remodel of the building that will then bear his name.

WSU President Charles A. Wight said the donation reflects the Lindquist family’s continued commitment to enriching the community by enhancing students’ educational opportunities.

“Through this gift, John E. Lindquist continues his family’s legacy of dedicated, transformational philanthropy,” Wight said. “His unyielding support of this university enables us to continue to provide an outstanding learning environment for our students and a reverberating impact throughout our community.”

The Social Science building, which sits on the northwest corner of campus, opened in 1972. The heavily used building, which serves 4,000 people a day, houses all 12 departments and programs in the College of Social & Behavioral Sciences, including history, political science, psychology and military science (ROTC). The college has 2,000 majors and provides many general education courses. Few students at Weber State graduate without taking at least one class in the building.

“Weber State has always been an important part of the Ogden community,” Lindquist said. “As one succeeds, so does the other. A state-of-the-art instructional building will help with the overall mission of the university, and I am proud to be part of the progress.”

Outdated Building

After 44 years of use, WSU’s current Social Science building is outdated, with inadequate fire suppression and detection. The heating, ventilation, air-conditioning and electrical systems need an estimated $3.5 million in repairs. The building does not meet current seismic codes and is difficult to navigate, with steep stairs, narrow halls and one small elevator for its four floors. Students complain about rusty water, lack of study space and inadequate support for modern technology. The problems are especially difficult for departments that require science labs such as criminal justice and neuroscience.

Rendering of WSU Social Science Building renovation

“In the forensics lab there are activities I cannot do with the students – critical experiments and techniques they need to learn how to do – but we can’t accomplish because this building was never designed to host laboratory programs, so it is lacking in basic utility needs to function properly,” explained associate professor Brent Horn, director of the Criminal Justice Forensic Lab.

The Utah State Legislature has given the university permission to move forward with the design of the building. Additional funding from the Legislature will be sought in 2017. The master plans call for removal of the heavy concrete slabs that surround the exterior walls. That change will improve seismic stability and allow windows to provide natural light. The 13,000-square-foot porch will be enclosed to provide student gathering space and large lecture rooms.

Using the existing foundation and steel will keep costs down and lessen impact to the environment. The remodel will create a dynamic structure to serve students for more than 50 years.

“The current building reflects the priorities and learning models of the past,” said Frank Harrold, dean of the College of Social & Behavioral Sciences. “This generous donation will help provide a building that integrates the best knowledge of the present and projections for the future, and offers an educational experience in the social sciences that prepares our students for the world they will face.”

Under a microscope in criminal justice or under a layer or earth in archeology, social science courses help students gain a broad understanding of the world. Programs such as the Olene S. Walker Institute of Politics & Public Service, which is located on the third floor, or history on the second, promote democratic engagement.

John E. Lindquist History

Lindquist is a model of civic engagement. At a young age, he began work in the family mortuary business, mowing grass and tending flowers. He became a funeral director following graduation from California College of Mortuary Science in 1971. Eventually he took over the business, later becoming president. Lindquist Mortuaries now has seven mortuary locations and three cemeteries serving Weber and Davis counties, making it the largest mortuary operation in the state of Utah.

In 1983, Lindquist started Great Western Insurance Company to fund pre-arranged funeral plans. What began as a small company selling 100 policies per year is now a national multi-million-dollar business that employs more than 5,000 people, selling more than 35,000 policies per year.

Lindquist was a member of the U.S. Army Utah National Guard. He has served as chair of the Ogden/Weber Chamber of Commerce and on many boards of directors. He is actively involved in business development and civic affairs, and currently is a member of Weber State’s National Advisory Council and the John B. Goddard School of Business & Economics’ advisory board. He is a member and former president of the WSU Wildcat Club. His affinity for sports extends past campus boundaries. He was instrumental in bringing Raptors baseball to Ogden.

Lindquist received an honorary doctorate from Weber State during the spring 2015 commencement exercise.

“Weber State University and the Ogden community are fortunate to have John E. Lindquist – a visionary who has enlarged the economic, educational, social and cultural vibrancy of the community,” said President Wight. “We are all beneficiaries.”