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Wilkes University Breaks Ground for $35 Million Science Building



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Wilkes University broke ground today for a $35 million science building that will help to ensure its position as a national leader in undergraduate science education. It will house Wilkes’ award-winning biology and health sciences, chemistry and biochemistry, and environmental engineering and earth science programs. The 72,500-square-foot building, which will be the most advanced educational facility in the region with state-of-the-art classrooms and laboratory space, is slated to open in fall 2013.

Wilkes also announced the public phase of the $20 million “Achieving Our Destiny” capital campaign to fund the project. The campaign already has raised $10.4 million toward the goal. The University will seek additional contributions from alumni and friends of the University.  

Wilkes President Tim Gilmour said preparing students for careers in the sciences and health care has been part of the University’s mission since its earliest days. The new building will build on the strengths of the science programs.

“This new building will transform science education at Wilkes and the region, opening new opportunities as an incubator for biomedical and other types of cutting-edge research with partners such as The Commonwealth Medical College and regional health care organizations like Geisinger Health System and Community Health Care Inc.,” Gilmour said. “It will bring state-of-the-art collaborative learning spaces that will enhance the already excellent science education Wilkes offers, and it will increase our ability to attract the best and brightest students.”

Jack Miller, chair of the University Board of Trustees, said the science building will ensure another decade of extraordinary success. “Wilkes is at a tipping point and this building will put us over the top. It will ensure we continue on our mission of providing topnotch undergraduate research that prepares students for the best careers in science, the health professions and entrance into the best medical schools and Ph.D. programs.”

The Institute for Public Policy and Economic Development estimates the building’s annual economic impact at $5.8 million from new jobs and scientific research. The 18-month construction period will generate $20.5 million in Luzerne County and $46.8 million in Pennsylvania.

Trustee Michael Mahoney serves as chair of the Achieving Our Destiny Campaign, and trustees Hedy Wrightson Rittenmeyer of the class of 1972 and John Cefaly of the class of 1970 are co-chairs. Frank M. Henry and William B. Sordoni are honorary chairs.

Mahoney thanked the campaign’s leadership donors, who played a major role in taking the fundraising campaign to more than half of its $20 million goal. The campaign’s $1 million donors to date are Cefaly and his wife, Jane; Larry Cohen, a 1957 Wilkes graduate, and his wife, Sally; and Bill and Peg Sordoni, a 1970 Wilkes graduate.

The region’s elected officials played an important role in supporting the University’s plan. State Sen. John Yudichak (D-14, Luzerne), state Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski (D-121, Luzerne), and Wilkes-Barre Mayor Tom Leighton helped secure $1 million from the Pennsylvania Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program and $2 million from Local Share Assessment Fund (gaming funds) for Luzerne County. 

The building is designed by SaylorGregg Architects of Philadelphia, with laboratory space designed by Nalls Architecture of Narberth, Pa., a specialist in science laboratories.

A faculty committee chaired by biology professor Kenneth Klemow, who also is associate director of Wilkes’ Institute for Energy and Environmental Research for Northeastern Pennsylvania, worked with architects to plan the building. The four-story facility will face River Street between the University’s Annette Evans Alumni House and Conyngham Hall and arc around the end of the Stark Learning Center into the Fenner Quadrangle, the green centerpiece of the Wilkes campus.

The third floor of the building will contain interdisciplinary research space to enhance the faculty/student research projects that are a hallmark of science education at Wilkes. Undergraduate research projects are encouraged and required in all Wilkes science programs. These programs have been recognized by grants from such prestigious institutions as the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health, among others.

The University is seeking silver-level LEED certification for the building. LEED certification is awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council and specifies that sustainable practices will be used in constructing and operating the building. The Wilkes building will incorporate sustainable polished concrete, Forest Stewardship Council-rated wood that is harvested responsibly, energy-efficient lighting and windows glazed with low-emittance coatings that save energy.

Faculty worked to ensure that the building will be a “learning laboratory,” with meters to monitor electricity and water use. Trellises on the building exterior will be planted with vegetation appropriate to its location.  The building will also incorporate technology for 21st century teaching. A wall-sized interactive computer display in the lobby can be used for announcements as well as enhancing instruction. Professors will be able to livestream videos or other digital media to illustrate lessons.

For more information about the Achieving Our Destiny campaign and the science building project at Wilkes, please visit www.wilkes.edu/achieve.

 

Published On: 3/1/2012
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