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Wilson breaks ground on 'green' science center in Chambersburg

October 29, 2007

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Wilson College hosted an official groundbreaking ceremony Friday for its $25 million Complex for Science, Mathematics and Technology. Approximately 80 people, including college officials, trustees, faculty members, staff, students and local government officials attended.

The project, which got under way in August with site preparation and demolition work in the 39-year-old Havens Science Center, includes a complete renovation and expansion of the facility while meeting "green" building standards that reflect Wilson's commitment to sustainability.

"Few jobs that I perform as chair of the Wilson College Board of Trustees, other than signing diplomas, give me as much pleasure as welcoming you all to this groundbreaking ceremony," said Dr. Jeanne Crawford Beck, a 1965 Wilson graduate. "The importance of this project for Wilson College cannot be overemphasized."

The need for a state-of-the-art science building was identified during Wilson's strategic planning process and plans were cemented in the campus master plan approved by college trustees in 2005, according to Wilson President Lorna Duphiney Edmundson.

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"Science and mathematics are central to a liberal arts education," Edmundson said. "All of our students study science and mathematics, which are a part of Wilson's general education requirements, and 51 percent of our students are currently enrolled in science-based majors - a percentage that has quadrupled since the 1960s."

The new science center is expected to open for classes in January 2009.

During the construction period, classes are being housed in modular classroom laboratory units, as well as in converted rooms in other buildings, including Thomson, Warfield, Lortz and Rosenkrans halls. Science faculty offices have been moved from the Havens Science Center to Rosenkrans Hall during the construction period.

Moving the contents of the entire Havens Science Center fell largely to Wilson's science faculty, but many other Wilson faculty members and staff helped with the immense task. Speakers thanked those who have assisted with the project in a variety of ways.

"It takes an entire community sometimes to realize dreams like this, and this project is a dream coming true for this community - and in particular, the science faculty," said Cheryl Sleboda, Wilson's vice president for finance and administration. "The science faculty has worked tirelessly through every phase of this project to get us where we are right now."

Plans for the complex for science received a boost in February when the college announced a gift of $10 million from Wilson alumna Marguerite Lenfest, class of 1955, and her husband, Harold F. "Gerry" Lenfest of Huntingdon Valley, Pa. The gift ranks among the largest single contribution ever given to the college.

The project involves expanding the existing 51,500-square-foot building with a 25,000-square-foot, two-story addition that will wrap around a reconfigured and improved auditorium, and provide additional classrooms and laboratories, a greenhouse and a large central atrium. The facility also will include a natural history museum to showcase the college's array of artifacts and scientific collections.

The new science building was designed by Performa Inc., an award-winning planning, architecture and engineering firm based in Wisconsin. R.S. Mowery & Sons Inc. of Mechanicsburg, Pa., is the general contractor for the project.

The new building will be LEED-certified, which means it will meet strict environmental standards in energy efficiency and in the use of nonharmful chemicals, natural building materials and native vegetation.

When completed, the new science building will provide Wilson students with an up-to-date facility that can accommodate rapid scientific changes and support the latest teaching and research techniques, college officials said.

According to Dana Harriger, associate professor of biology and head of the Science Division, Nobel Prize winner Sir Paul Nurse of Rockefeller University called science "tentative knowledge; it's still moving and fluid; it's not chiseled in limestone."

"While the exterior of this new science center will be chiseled in limestone in keeping with Wilson's historic architecture, the entire interior of the science center is designed on a modular planning concept, which will allow for flexibility and reconfiguration of spaces for today, and will serve this institution and greater community for years to come," Harriger said.

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