Stonehill Plans $34M Building
JUNE 14, 2007

The New Science Center

Stonehill College soon will begin an ambitious building project designed to bolster its science programs and enhance the look of its Easton campus.

In September, the 2,300-student college plans to break ground on the construction of a $34 million science center, the largest building venture ever undertaken by the small 59-year-old Catholic liberal arts institution.

In preparation for the ground breaking, workers this summer will relocate utilities at the site. The 89,000-square-foot center will be situated prominently near the main entrance to the 384-acre campus off Route 123.

The brick building, overlooking Ames Pond, will include two wings that will provide office, classroom, and lab space for the biology, chemistry, psychology, and physics departments. Between the wings will be a 500-seat glass atrium intended for lectures, presentations, and the informal gathering of students. The building is projected to open in the spring of 2009.

"I think this is the first time we've really designed a facility that allows us to do the kind of undergraduate science pedagogy we think is so important," said the Rev. Mark T. Cregan, Stonehill's president.

Founded in 1948 by the Congregation of Holy Cross, Stonehill is on what was once the estate of Frederick Lothrop Ames, a member of the Easton family that prospered in the shovel-making business. The college's last major building project was the construction of an $11 million library, which was opened in 1998.

The project is now entering the final stages of design, as well as the final stages of permitting before the town Planning and Zoning Board and Conservation Commission.

College officials say the center, which is designed to fit with the college's other buildings, can serve as a valuable architectural anchor of the campus.

"It will be the first major building people see when they enter our campus," said Martin McGovern, the college's director of communications.

Stonehill plans to finance $15 million of the project's cost through private donations and foundation grants, and to borrow the remainder. So far, $5 million in gifts and commitments have been received, part of an ongoing capital campaign by the college, McGovern said.

The Martin Institute for Law and Society, McGovern said, will remain Stonehill's primary facility for college and community-sponsored public events, including political debates, conferences, lectures, dinners, and musical performances. He said the focus of the new science center is academics, but there may be occasions when the atrium is used for public events such as lectures.

The new center will replace the college's current science building, which college officials say is small and outmoded. It was built in 1949, with an addition in 1979.

"I think it's really going to be transformative in the way we do science education at Stonehill," said Katie Conboy, the vice president of academic affairs. The science faculty "has led us in every major kind of initiative happening at the college," Conboy said.

The new facility will provide the added space needed to increase equipment in the science labs, said Maria A. Curtin, associate professor of chemistry and the faculty director of the project. She said the layout of the labs also will foster "more hands-on experiments."

With the new building, the college will be able to elevate its physics program into a major, something it cannot do now because of inadequate space. Officials say bringing all science department offices under one roof also will facilitate greater faculty collaboration. Now, because of space constraints, the physics and psychology departments are not in the science center.

Officials say the new science center will bring the science departments, now housed at a remote end of campus, into the heart of the campus and help Stonehill recruit students interested in pursuing science majors. As part of a multi year goal to increase enrollment to 2,500, Stonehill hopes to increase its proportion of students in the sciences from the current 16 percent to about 20 percent.

But the intent also is to provide the general student population with greater exposure to the sciences.

"Especially science faculty, but I think a lot of people feel that a well-educated student, whether a science major or not, should have a strong background in science," Curtin said.

Conboy said: "It's a building that 100 percent of our students will make their way through during their four years at Stonehill."

© Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company.

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