Frosty beginning for Science Learning Building

The groundbreaking ceremony Dec. 9 for the new $32 million Science Learning Building included (from left) Bob Ducker, principal, director of design, Christner, Inc.; Michael Finkes, president UMSL Alumni Association; James Krueger, vice chancellor, Managerial and Technological Services; Dewayne Holloway, senior project manager, K&S Associates, Inc.; Martin Leifeld, vice chancellor, University Advancement; Joseph O’Sullivan, dean, UMSL/WUSTL Joint Undergraduate Engineering Program; Ronald Yasbin, dean, College of Arts and Sciences; UMSL Chancellor Tom George; UMSL Provost Glen Cope; Bernard Feldman, chair, Department of Physics; Patricia Parker, chair, Department of Biology; Christopher Spilling, chair, Department of Chemistry; Terry Freerks, chair CAS Leadership Council; Joe Vogl, outgoing chair, CAS Leadership Council; and Matthew Keefer, chair, Budget and Planning Committee. (Click on the photo to enlarge.) (Photo by August Jennewein)

There were a few remarks about the cold weather, but most of the focus Monday afternoon was on the pile of dirt in front of the science complex at the University of Missouri–St. Louis.

“This is an exciting day that’s been a long time coming,” UMSL Chancellor Tom George told the crowd of about 75 hearty people who braved the cold wind.

UMSL held a formal groundbreaking ceremony for construction of a $32 million, four-story Science Learning Building now underway on the university’s North Campus.

George reminded everyone that the building is phase one of a two-phase project, which will include the complete renovation of Benton and Stadler halls.

George especially thanked the deans and members of the Budget and Planning Committee for their “shared sacrifice” and approval of the funding. The university is funding the Science Learning Building. UMSL officials hope the state will provide funding for phase two.

“This building and the sciences are important to everyone on this campus,” George said.

The new 75,000-square-foot facility will house advanced, equipment-intensive teaching laboratories. A solarium/town center space connecting the addition to the existing buildings will serve as the crossroads of the science complex bringing students and faculty together for a broad range of interactions. It is expected to be completed by the end of 2015.

Ron Yasbin, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said that waiting more than 20 years meant the teaching laboratories “have lagged behind in technology.” But there has been a real plus for students.

“The equipment used by our students and the course designs have been state of the art,” Yasbin said “UMSL is one of the few research institutions where our STEM students actually get to utilize research-grade equipment. Now the teaching laboratories will be of the same caliber as our equipment.”

Yasbin said he was looking forward to UMSL’s future students in the College of Arts and Sciences becoming leaders in innovation, technology, industry, education, health care, economic development and the community. He added that he was expecting Nobel laureates as well.

Michael Finkes, president of UMSL’s Alumni Association, earned both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in chemistry.

“Benton Hall is where I learned how the world worked at the molecular level and that was exciting to me,” he said. He went on to a very successful career at Monsanto.

The new Science Learning Building will run perpendicular to Natural Bridge Road, creating a new entrance/drop-off drive to the west at Benton Hall. On the east, another drop-off will be created at the south entrance of Stadler Hall and the new solarium.

The brick, stone, glass and aluminum building will reflect the architectural context of the science complex. Study spaces along the south side of the building will have floor to ceiling glass. Landscaping will retain as many of the mature trees as possible.

The building will achieve the US Green Building Council Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification for new construction and is expected to be complete by December 2015. Architects for the project are Christner Inc. of St. Louis and K&S Associate of St. Louis were chosen as general contractors.

The Science Learning Building is one of two new buildings now under construction on UMSL’s campus. A new Recreation and Wellness Center, located just south of the Millennium Student Center, should be completed in fall 2015.

Media Coverage:
St. Louis Public Radio | 90.7 KWMU
KSDK (Channel 5)


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