Bob Lowry, 334/844-9999


AUBURN -- An Auburn graduate wants his $25 million gift to vault his alma mater into the top ranks of wireless communication and related engineering research and teaching.

Samuel L. Ginn, a pioneer in wireless communication, announced on Friday (Feb. 2) his gift and plans to spearhead an additional $150 million in new support for the Auburn University College of Engineering.

Ginn's gift is the largest single gift in the 145-year history of the university and is believed to be the largest single cash gift in Alabama higher education. The college will be renamed the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering.

As a condition of the gift, Ginn has requested that AU raise an additional $100 million in endowment and that the university recruit another 25 donors to generate a minimum of $50 million for 25 new endowed chairs in engineering.

He also asked that the College of Engineering develop an undergraduate degree in wireless engineering.

Ginn said the college can expect to receive additional support from him in the future, based on improvements in the college as measured by its ranking in U.S. News & World Report and similar ratings.

Ginn, whose hometown is Anniston, Ala., is now senior partner of the Freemont Group, managing telecommunication investments in San Francisco. He said he decided to make the gift to the college after reflecting on his meteoric career in telecommunications that began following his graduation in 1959 from Alabama Polytechnic Institute, as Auburn was known then.

"As I began to think about my own life and how rewarding my own career has been and how much fun I've had, I asked myself what's been important to me, and Auburn was among the things I immediately thought of," he said. "I want the young men and women in Alabama to have a shot in an industry that's likely to grow and be fascinating in the years to come and I see Auburn as the vehicle for background and training to give them that opportunity.

"One of my own personal objectives is to help the College of Engineering not only be a top-tier engineering school, but also allow the students to participate in what I think is going to be a fabulous industry over the next several decades.

"I think that one of the things we have to do at the College of Engineering is make sure that we have the kind of faculty that can do wonderful research, but also teach students to go out to industry and make valuable contributions to wireless in the technical arena. As the research drives more capability into wireless devices and comes up with systems to make wireless more affordable, I would like for Auburn students to be leaders in that revolution."

Meanwhile, AU leaders expressed their appreciation for Ginn's gift to the college.

"Auburn University is fortunate to have alumni like Sam Ginn who have the capability and desire to help their alma mater," said President William V. Muse. "Our College of Engineering, with the assistance of Mr. Ginn's gift, will be able to move into the top-tier of engineering schools nationally."

"This is a truly historic day in the lives of Auburn University and our College of Engineering," said Jimmy Samford, president pro tem of the AU Board of Trustees. "Since this institution's founding 145 years ago, engineering has been a mainstay of its curriculum, and Auburnšs reputation in engineering has been and remains solid.

"But Sam Ginn is a visionary. With the help of his gift, his leadership and his eye for the future, Auburn engineering will excel at the national and international levels by the time that Auburn University marks its sesquicentennial in 2006."

AU Provost William Walker, who has known Ginn since 1989, said he is "absolutely thrilled" with Ginn's decision.

"I don't know of anyone who is more deserving of the success he has achieved," said Walker. "He is a visionary. He is the sort of person people love to have as a boss. I really believe he personifies the words in the Auburn Creed -- every sentence in that document spelled out."

Larry Benefield, dean of the College of Engineering, added:

"Sam Ginn's commitment to the College of Engineering will make a tremendous difference in our ability to work toward a top-ten ranking among engineering institutions nationally.

"His vision for Auburn engineering reflects our own faculty's perception that we must move from a leadership position among the South's public engineering programs into an arena where we are perceived as a quality program on the national level, second to none.

"Dr. Ginn's dedication to Auburn University will go a long way in moving the College of Engineering's vision of excellence into a reality for our students today -- and for promising young scholars of tomorrow. His challenge to the College of Engineering's alumni and friends is to respond in a way that will augment his own gift to Auburn engineering."

Ginn, 63, resigned in May 2000 as chairman of Vodafone AirTouch Plc, which is the largest wireless communications company in the world. He became chairman in 1999 after the merger between Vodafone and AirTouch.

Ginn, whose degree from Auburn is in industrial management, was chairman and CEO of Pacific Telesis Group, the West Coast telephone and communications giant, from 1987 until December 1993, when he spun off AirTouch Communications. The new company was created to concentrate on commercial development in the emerging field of wireless technology.

Creation of AirTouch was the second major communications company spin-off in which Ginn played a major role. He was a member of the divestiture team at AT&T during the breakup of the Bell System in the early 1980s; the Pacific Telesis Group, which included Pacific Bell and Nevada Bell, was a product of that divestiture.

Ginn has spent his career in the telecommunications field, starting with AT&T shortly after graduating from Auburn. In 1969, he was a Sloan Fellow at Stanford University's School of Business, and he subsequently rose fast in the AT&T ranks.

He became vice president of network operations for AT&T Long Lines in 1977, and one year later he was sent to the company's Los Angeles network as vice president of network operations. His last position at AT&T before the divestiture was vice chairman, strategic planning and administration for what would later become Pacific Telesis Group.

Ginn was president and chief operating officer of Pacific Telesis Group before becoming chairman and CEO, a post he held until leading AirTouch into the corporate arena.

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