Courtesy Utah State University
A statue of Janet Quinney Lawson, daughter of S.J. and Jessie E. Quinney, is seen near USU's Natural Resources Building.

LOGAN — Once at risk for a closure or merger, Utah State University's College of Natural Resources was placed on firm footing Wednesday with the announcement of a new name and a $10 million donation by the S.J. and Jessie E. Quinney Foundation.

USU President Stan Albrecht said that after years of budget cuts following the recession, a merger of the natural resources degree programs with another college was one of several cost-saving options examined by his administration. But he said it was an option that he particularly disliked.

"Of all the proposals that came forward, that is the one I had the most angst about," Albrecht said.

Instead, university officials are celebrating a new chapter for natural resources programs at USU, which include the departments of wildland resources, watershed sciences and environment and society.

The newly-named S.J. and Jessie E. Quinney College of Natural Resources is the fourth "named" college at USU and one of only a few named colleges of natural resources in the country, said interim dean Chris Luecke.

He said students and staff are excited about the change and are treating the renaming like a new college. With the help of the Quinney Foundation's donation, he said the college will be expanding into new research areas and eventually the goal is to solidify the college's brand as a premiere natural resources school in the West.

"It does help us make more of an impression nationally," Luecke said of the new name. "The idea is to brand it and make it a name people recognize."

Albrecht agreed, saying the attachment of a donor's name to a college strengthens the school's identity and increases its visibility and reach.

"It's a signal to those on the outside looking in that this college needs to be taken seriously," Albrecht said. "It moves us into that realm, it moves us into that arena."

Luecke, who was named interim dean in January, said the first discussions with the Quinney Foundation about renaming the school began before he took the post. Luecke said it's been thrilling to be involved as the college makes plans for the future.

"It's an exciting time to be in the college," he said. "There's a lot of energy and focus on what we're going to be doing for the next decade."

The Quinney family has supported USU and the College of Natural Resources for decades. Previous gifts by the Quinney Foundation included funding for grants, scholarships and the university's Natural Resources Library. Both Joe and Jessie Quinney are alumnae of USU, earning their degrees from the then-Agricultural College of Utah in 1916 and 1917, respectively.

"It's just a wonderful group of people and their commitment over the years has been stellar," Albrecht said. "They've just been essential to what we've done as a college of natural resources."

The new Quinney college is the smallest of USU's eight colleges. Currently there are approximately 350 undergraduate students and 150 graduate students enrolled.