UC s Strength Draws the Generosity of Business Owners

With a $2 million gift from Sharon and James Weinel, the University of Cincinnati is establishing the Terence M. Fruth/Gemini Chair of Signage Design and Community Planning in the College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP). This gift follows on the heels of a $2 million gift from the Weinels in 2007 to establish a chair of signage and visual marketing in the College of Business.

The Weinels, owners of Gemini, Inc., the largest producer of dimensional letters and logos in the world, say their vision for the chair is to forge a partnership between the sign industry and academia, engaging the next generation of business leaders and leveraging the talents of nationally recognized researchers.

“Jim and Sharon Weinel’s generous donation will ultimately bring distinction to UC as the center for signage study in the world,” said Robert Probst, dean of the College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning.
The gifts grew out of collaboration—with hopes to encourage further partnership between the university and the sign industry. Just two years ago, the Weinels had no relationship with UC: They weren’t alumni, nor did they live in the Cincinnati region.

The collaboration began in June 2007, when UC fielded a call from College of Business alumnus Michael Paxton, chairman of Transport America. As a director with Gemini Incorporated, Paxton was interested in seeing UC partner with the sign industry—a seemingly common industry with far-reaching global impact. The collaboration between the Weinels, owners of Gemini, and the university grew from there.

With the establishment of the Terence M. Fruth/Gemini Chair, the Weinels’ vision for an academic-industry partnership is extended to catapult UC to become an international center for the study of communication in the environment.

Signage touches on many disciplines and in many fields. Cincinnati has emerged as a hub for advanced brand design, serving as home to companies ranging from Fortune 500 giants to independent studios. Cincinnati also is home to the American Sign Museum, founded by Tod Swormstedt and supported by Gemini.

The Terence M. Fruth/Gemini Chair of Signage will have a widespread, long-lasting impact on the study of signage and its effects on communication, business and the consumer. The School of Planning in the College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning has big plans for this partnership:

  • Work will begin this quarter to graphically visualize how the world’s first model comprehensive sign code might be applied to simulated situations. During the summer, advanced planning students will test this new sign code on a stretch of local roadway—specifically on Beechmont Avenue. The results of this will ultimately affect businesses and communities everywhere.

  • In the coming months, the chairholder will be announced and will begin planning a sequence of courses that will lead to a certificate of signage with classes to be offered for the first time in 2010. A signage conference, hosted at UC in the fall, will bring together industry professionals, planners, designers, marketers, architects, students and politicians.

“UC is the ideal campus to pioneer this new area of research and teaching on behalf of a powerful global industry,” said Kristi Nelson, Senior Vice Provost for Academic Planning. “Our intercollegiate and interdisciplinary programs integrating the College of Business and the College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning are well established.”

About James and Sharon Weinel
James and Sharon Weinel are the generous founders of the James S. Womack/Gemini Chair of Signage and Visual Marketing and the Terence M. Fruth/Gemini Chair of Signage. Through their business, Gemini, Inc., the Weinels have achieved entrepreneurial success in an industry that is very often in the background of our daily lives. While Jim started the existing Gemini, Inc., in 1963, the company he purchased out of bankruptcy actually began in 1933, working with sign professionals and architects to produce dimensional letters, logos and plaques. From injection-molded and thermoformed wood and cotton-based plastics to foundry-cast, laser- and water-jet cut metals, plastics and stone, Gemini produces the largest line of dimensional letters and logos in the world. They have manufacturing facilities across the United States and in several international locations.

About the University of Cincinnati
Ranked by the National Science Foundation among the top 25 public research universities in the United States, UC's faculty have distinguished themselves worldwide for their creative teaching and research. The University of Cincinnati serves a diverse enrollment of more than 36,500.

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