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Construction of the Science Center at New London Hall is moving into high gear after a groundbreaking on May 21, the day before Commencement.
Science faculty, alumni and parent leaders, and College officials donned hardhats and grabbed shovels to begin the work with some energetic -- if ceremonial -- shoveling outside the building's east entrance.
The state-of-the-art labs and classrooms in the new Center are important to the academic program for all students and will help the College continue to attract the best students and faculty, said President Leo I. Higdon, Jr.
The project is also important to the College as a community, he said. New London Hall was built in 1914-15 to be the new college's science building, but for many years it provided the only academic space.
"New London Hall connects us to our past more tangibly than any other place on campus. This is where our first students met their professors for classes, where they practiced music, where clubs gathered, where convocations were held," Higdon said. Now, he said, "New London Hall doesn't just embody our history. It embodies our future."
The $20 million-plus project will transform the building into a center for the life sciences - biology and botany - and computer science. A 6,500-net-square-foot addition will expand the amount of space for research and teaching by 28 percent. The Center will anchor a "Science Triangle" with the nearby F.W. Olin Science Center and Hale Laboratory, which house the College's other science programs.
The work is funded through the Campaign for Connecticut College with a grant from the Sherman Fairchild Foundation and by leadership support from these alumni and parents:
Judith Ammerman '60
Marshall and Margaret Bartlett P'93 '97
Elizabeth Castle Halsey '73 P'00
David and Sara Kelso P'09
Linda J. Lear '62
Helen Fricke Mathieson '52
Judith Tindal Opatrny '72
Mary Lake Polan '65 P'02 '10
Frances Gillmore Pratt '60 P'89
Jean C. Tempel '65
An anonymous alumna
Dean of the Faculty Roger Brooks recalled the early phases of the planning for the building. A visiting team from a foundation had just toured New London Hall.
"They commented to me during their exit interview that the science being pursued by our faculty and their students was incredible, absolutely first rate," Brooks said, pausing briefly, "despite the condition of the facilities.
"One of them said to me, 'Imagine what your faculty and students will do when you build this.' " Brooks smiled broadly. "Well, we're building it now," he said.
The new Science Center is scheduled to open in September 2012. While the building is off line in 2011-12, classes and labs that would have been in New London Hall will instead be held in the Arboretum building that once housed the Science Center of Eastern Connecticut.