JOLIET – Biology professor William Bromer choked back tears several times during a speech Thursday at a dedication ceremony for the new LaVerne and Dorothy Brown Science Hall at the University of St. Francis.
“Who knew science faculty could be so emotional?” Provost Frank Pascoe asked later in the ceremony.
But Bromer was not the only one who got emotional over the three-story, 48,000-square-foot science hall that opens up new research space and teaching laboratories for USF students.
During one of the tours of the new building, biology professor Patricia Pascoe explained the “Prayer Before and After Cadaver Dissection” that is prominently posted over three cadavers and how a class was overcome with emotion when it was prayed for the first time in the new laboratory.
“I led them in prayer, and I began to cry,” Pascoe said. “I looked up, and they were crying. It was just the emotion of being in this new building.”
Professors and students told people touring the building about the improved learning and research environment it provides.
Biochemistry student Cory Schneider said research projects done through the summer no longer will be interrupted once classes start as happened in the former quarters used by science students.
“Once the students moved in and classes started, you had to move out,” Schneider said. “So you had a three-month time frame. But chemistry doesn’t happen in three months. Now we will be able to use the whole year.”
The LaVerne and Dorothy Brown Science Hall has four student/faculty research laboratories, nine teaching laboratories and a multipurpose lecture hall.
Common areas where students gather are lined by faculty offices, giving students what one tour guide called “a direct line of communication to the faculty.”
Wide windows give a panoramic view over the USF campus. One
patio called the “green roof” offers space for outdoor research or relaxation.
The building was designed by the Chicago architectural firm of Holabird & Root. It was built by Joliet-based Carlson Construction.
But USF faculty also had a hand in the design.
“The science faculty started working on this in 2014,” Bromer said as he described how professors would get together to discuss how the laboratories should be designed and even where outlets might go. “We had a vision for this building.”
Bromer said former USF President Michael Vinciguerra first mentioned the possibility of a new science building in 2008.
President Arvid Johnson later gave it the green light, and construction started in April 2016.
A donation from LaVerne and Dorothy Brown got the project rolling, Johnson said in his speech at the ceremony.
“This opens a new chapter in our home campus where this institution was founded in 1920,” Johnson said during his remarks.
The building serves the growing student interest in the sciences at USF, Johnson said. One-third of last year’s graduating class majored in one of the sciences, he said.
USF was even able to start a new major for biochemistry because of the extra space provided by the building, professor Daniel Schwert said during one of the tours.
“Now, we not only tell students about science,” Schwert said. “They’re able to do science.”