Fulton gives $3 million to ASU’s Decision Theatre
November 5, 2004
Ira A. Fulton, a prominent Valley businessman and philanthropist, has made a $3 million gift to the Arizona State University Foundation to establish the Decision Theater for the New Arizona — an advanced visualization tool that will enable policymakers and others to see in detailed three-dimensional representation the environmental consequences of their actions. The computer-driven visualization tool will be central to the newly established Decision Center for a Desert City, formed with a $6.9 million federal grant to ASU, as well as other ASU projects.
Fulton, the largest single donor in the history of ASU, has previously given $50 million to the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, which now bears his name, and $5 million to the School of Education, to establish a chair in early reading development and reading remediation and in honor of his wife, Mary Lou. Fulton has also established the Fulton Challenge, which matches gifts to the School of Engineering from alumni and students.
ASU’s Decision Theater for the New Arizona will feature an “immersive environment” (a 270-degree screen) where researchers will literally see the effects of public policy decisions played out before them. Using computer models and computer visualization techniques, the Decision Theater for the New Arizona will enable researchers to test the outcomes of decisions made today on such topics as urban growth and water usage, and the effects of policy decisions on public health and on a myriad of environmental and social challenges.
The goal for the Decision Theater for the New Arizona is to provide interactive forums to identify and assess probable outcomes of real world decisions, review the potential impacts of varying policy decisions, and provide visualizations of alternative future scenarios and scientific analyses produced by complex and integrated computer models.
The Decision Theater will be used in several targeted research areas, including:
• Providing scenario development where public planners and public health officials can meet to explore the outcomes of possible scenarios of urban development. One key area here would be to explore the relationship between air quality and health, air quality and traffic patterns, and the exposure of children to pollutants and the impacts of different scheduling, development and zoning decisions on pediatric health.
• Providing a forum where decision makers and scientists meet to discuss and explore integrated environmental, economic and social challenges with the aim of arriving at optimal decisions in the near term through the use of models and dialogue.
• Providing simulation games or “what if” scenarios to model and visualize otherwise unimaginable future outcomes of the many factors that affect our society and possible “breaking points” of our critical infrastructure. For example, ASU researchers will be able to simulate metropolitan Phoenix in the year 2050, when it is expected to include a population of 7 million people, by inputting the known and expected growth patterns and associated demands for water and other natural resources.
Decision Theater for the New Arizona will be a key tool to be used by the ASU researchers who are setting up the Decision Center for a Desert City, a recently funded National Science Foundation center at ASU. Decision Theater for the New Arizona will be housed in the Brickyard complex on Mill Avenue in downtown Tempe. Construction begins in November and completion is expected in May 2005.
“It is fitting that a visionary like Ira Fulton is funding the development of the Decision Theater for the New Arizona which, in itself, is going to play a key role in many of our research projects,” said ASU President Michael M. Crow. “Ira Fulton has shown that in order to make progress you need to make bold decisions. Funding the Decision Theater for the New Arizona is one more example of Ira’s anticipation of key future needs and his willingness to help ASU fulfill them.”
“The Decision Theater for the New Arizona is a prime example of how we are using our advanced knowledge at ASU to tackle the thorny issues of today,” Crow added. “It underscores our commitment to doing work for the benefit of society, in this case most directly the people of Phoenix and the Valley, as we strive to achieve a degree of economic and environmental sustainability.”
“I am honored to be able to participate in the Decision Theater and it gives me great pleasure to support it,” said Ira Fulton. “This project demonstrates how computer technology can be instrumental to the future of Arizona. As the Valley grows to be one of the greatest cities in the world, we will be able to use this tool to make responsible decisions affecting our future.”
Ira Fulton has demonstrated a knack for taking businesses to new heights. After attending Arizona State University on a football scholarship, Fulton went to work for National Cash Register, eventually becoming their national salesman of the year. From NCR, he formed his own companies, fulfilling the computer needs of many corporations.
In 1974, Fulton became a consultant for Eagleson’s Big and Tall men’s clothiers, in southern California. Within two years, Fulton took a company that was close to bankruptcy with two outlets and turned it into a profitable company with 33 retail stores and sales in the multi-millions of dollars. During this same time period, Fulton formed Fulton Homes in Arizona, which he built from scratch into a company with an annual volume approaching 1,500 residential units.