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2006.10.04 > For Immediate Release
contact: Tim Fitzgerald - University Affairs
phone: 402.554.2358 - email: tfitzgerald@mail.unomaha.edu

Criss Library, Dr. Guinter Kahn Addition Dedication Oct. 11

Omaha - Dedication ceremonies to unveil the new Dr. C.C. and Mabel L. Criss Library and Dr. Guinter Kahn Addition at the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) will be held Wednesday, Oct. 11, beginning at 11 a.m. at the new facility. The three-story, $6.5 million addition is located on the north side of Criss Library, overlooking Dodge Street and University Drive North.

Construction on the addition began in June of 2005 by Hawkins Construction and Alley Poyner Architecture. The brick-and-glass Kahn Addition combines a variety of high-tech features with traditional library facilities.

The area contains 31,000 square feet of new space that includes lighted shelving for 50,000 books and almost 3,000 journals and magazines, more than 430 new study seats, nine group study and seminar rooms, a café with seating for 70 and nearly 200 additional network computer connections.

In addition to a café, the middle and lower floors of the addition contain high-tech study rooms with ceiling video projectors, flat screen monitors and cameras, with which students can produce their own video presentations. The main floor also has a gallery space currently displaying the printed works of The Yellow Barn Press.

A study area located on the top floor is a modern update on the traditional reading room, with windows overlooking Dodge Street. The room has 50 carrels with computer connections that can be checked out for graduate student use. The UNO library is the first in the nation to use a new system of lighted shelving for the 50,000 books the room contains.

A 2,300-pound untitled ceramic sculpture, created by Omaha artist Jun Kaneko, is the centerpiece of the addition's top level. Kaneko creates the world's largest fired ceramics at his downtown Omaha studio.

"The Kaneko sculpture of a giant head is unnamed," said Stephen Shorb, dean of Criss Library. "I'm sure that, in time, the students will come up with their own name for the sculpture."

Additional high-tech features of the library include a daily Hubble Space Telescope program and a Satellite Communications for Learning (SCOLA) language learning center. Three-hour video feed discussing earth and space science will be available from NASA each night, in addition to images from the Hubble Telescope.

"Library users can listen on special FM radios as they watch the Hubble video presentation," Shorb said. "We also will have video feeds of four different language channels provided by SCOLA. We hope this will reinforce SCOLA's mission of bringing people together through language."

Shorb said the university hopes to attract a gathering of UNO international students and language learners in the new facility. "There's lots of interesting foreign language content that we can provide, and the facility is designed to complement what goes on in the classroom," he said. "We're moving beyond books to create an information-rich resource for our campus and entire community."

Renovations outside the library include a 3,600-square-foot reading garden that is accessible from the lower level of the building. "All the new spaces are designed to create a more comfortable and productive environment for our students and researchers," Shorb said.

The library renovation and expansion were made possible through a leadership gift from the project's principal benefactor, the Dr. C.C. and Mabel L. Criss Memorial Foundation - which began in 1978 and has generously supported a variety of educational and scientific endeavors, including higher education, cultural, youth and social service activities.

In 1909, what has now become the Mutual of Omaha Insurance Company took shape in the mind of Creighton University medical student Dr. C.C. Criss. As a student, he sold insurance part time to help finance his education. While still in school in 1910, Dr. Criss and his wife, Mabel, purchased the charter of the Mutual Benefit Health and Accident Association. He served as treasurer, president and chairman of the company that would later become Mutual of Omaha.

Mabel Criss joined Mutual of Omaha as a stenographer and office manager, later becoming Mutual's first woman officer and a director of the company. She is credited with overseeing construction of the original Mutual of Omaha home office.

The library addition's namesake is Dr. Guinter Kahn, a 1954 University of Omaha cum laude graduate. He is the principal benefactor of the expanded and renovated library.

Born in Trier, Germany, Dr. Kahn and his family immigrated to the United States in the late 1930s due to economic hardships and anti-Semitic persecution. He graduated from Omaha Central High School and enrolled at Omaha University, graduating in three years. Dr. Kahn was then accepted at the University of Nebraska Medical Center's College of Medicine and graduated with honors in 1958.

Dr. Kahn taught at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, where he became aware that patients in an experimental study were growing unwanted hair as a side affect of the drug minoxidil. He reasoned that a topical solution might have the same effect and produce a "cure" for baldness. The results led to his 1974 patent and development of the product known as Rogaine.

For more than 30 years, Dr. Kahn has practiced dermatology in Miami. As a committed philanthropist, he also has traveled extensively throughout the world, lecturing on the horrors of the Holocaust and advocating tolerance and justice. In 2004, he celebrated the 50th anniversary of his graduation from the University of Omaha by making an extraordinary gift to support the UNO library expansion project.

The donations from Dr. Kahn and Dr. C.C. and Mabel Criss were made to the University of Nebraska Foundation.

For more information, contact Shorb at (402) 554-3740 or sshorb@mail.unomaha.edu.

The University of Nebraska Foundation is an independent, non-profit organization that has been raising private gifts to support the University of Nebraska for more than 70 years. Last year, more than $77 million was provided for students, faculty, academic programs, research and campus capital improvements. For more information about the foundation, visit the Web at http://www.nufoundation.org.

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