Newman University hosted an eagerly awaited dedication ceremony of the new Bishop Gerber Science Center on Sept. 21.
Hundreds of Newman community members, supporters and friends gathered outside the building early Thursday evening to celebrate the opening of the state-of-the-art facility.
The science center was the main focus of the Facing Forward campaign, which also raised funds to renovate existing nursing and allied health lab spaces. The beginning of the fall 2017 semester marked the building's inaugural year, and students and faculty couldn't be more excited about exploring and getting to know the new space.
Assistant Professor of Chemistry Ryan Huschka said the new building provides opportunities they never had before. "We can do a lot of different science that we could never do in the old building. We have the new instrumentation and labs that allow us to do almost anything that we can dream of at this point."
The dedication ceremony began with welcoming remarks from Vice President for University Advancement J.V. Johnston and former Board of Trustees president Linda Davison. Bishop Emeritus Eugene J. Gerber was also present to bless the new building that is his namesake.
Former Board of Trustees member and Newman alumna Jerry Killeen '69 said, "I think the turnout is amazing. I'm so excited that all these people are here. I can't believe we're at this point, that we're finished. It's just such a fulfilling feeling to see it done. I hope all of our friends and supporters that are here tonight walk away from this with a sense of quiet achievement — that we, together — we all did this."
During his speech at the dedication ceremony, Dean of Arts and Sciences David Shubert said, "This facility is going to be transformative for every major, every student and every program."
But as for scientific learning, the new building and all the technology it includes will provide students with opportunities that other universities won't.
"The Bishop Gerber Science Center is more than a newer, larger, shinier facility," Shubert said. "To move the same curriculum and experience into a new space would — well, it would be a crime. It would not fulfill the potential that this facility offers. There are new experiments to perform, new ways of teaching to develop, and new opportunities for collaboration and research to explore."
Newman Student Government Association President Vivian Hoang gave a short commentary about the Bishop Gerber Science Center from the student body perspective.
"Our science program has always been top notch," said Hoang, "and now we have a building that has caught up to it. For many science majors, our old building, the well-used, worn-down Heimerman, was our home for so long.
"The students are loving the open study spaces, the whiteboard walls, the comfy chairs, and the windows. Who knew you can do science and enjoy sunlight, too? It’s a marvel what this building has done for us and will do for us. The new technology and equipment that has come in is truly revolutionizing the way we are being taught and increasing the advancement of our lab experiments."
Following the dedication ceremony, guests were invited to tour the building. Faculty members were available throughout the building to answer questions as visitors investigated on their own to see what the new science center has to offer.
Dr. Joseph Galichia reminisced about Newman's past during his walkthrough of the new building.
"I remember what it was like years ago," said Dr. Galichia. "And many, many good students came to Newman. And though the facilities weren't great, the professors were. So despite the fact that they had to put up with a few old pieces of equipment and things that weren't quite modern, they learned. I found that if somebody came to me and said, 'Where can I go to be sure I'd have the best chance of going to medical school?' I would tell them, "Right here (Newman).'"
Tom and Myra Devlin already knew of the need for new science facilities on campus, and hearing the news that those new facilities would be named after their good friend, Bishop Gerber, gave them final motivation to help with the campaign. They both agreed that the final results are something to be proud of.
"I'm duly impressed with it," said Myra upon her fourth visit to the building. "Now that I see it completed, I hope that my grandsons will come here. It's incredible. The labs are done very well, and the firm Newman worked with definitely listened to everyone here and their needs — and they definitely fulfilled it."
Tom agreed. "This is my first visit. Knowing how close I think Bishop Gerber is to the Lord, he was going to make sure this outdid anything we all expected — and it does. I think it's superb."
The celebration continued with a special thank-you dinner in the Dugan-Gorges Conference Center for all those who contributed during the campaign.
President Noreen M. Carrocci, Ph.D. gave her personal thanks to all the key donors of the Facing Forward campaign but said she didn't want to leave anyone out in her gratitude.
"These lead donors ... account for more than three-quarters of our funds raised," said Carrocci. "But our success was sealed with the critical quarter that came from everyone else — from the $10 given by a young alum to $2,500 to $25,000 to $50,000 and more by countless friends, alums, and from our very generous and dedicated faculty and staff. We appreciate all the gifts that were given."
The historical evening ended with remarks of a bright future for Newman University and the countless eventual alumni that will benefit from the learning and growth opportunities the science building and its state-of-the-art technology will provide.
Newman Board of Trustees President Teresa Hall Bartels said, "We need leaders who are able to communicate — to both listen and help us to make sense of this ever-increasing base of scientific knowledge. Our number one mission is to assure that we are empowering the next generation of leaders who will transform society.
"Newman University has a culture that has evolved as the buildings have evolved, more because of the people who have brought those buildings into existence, taught within those buildings and learned within those buildings. We owe it to all of them — and to all those who will come — to have a vision that reaches beyond our current understanding and stretches us, offering the world an alternative grounded in our values."