College Delighted by New, Improved Science Center
By Rachel Decker

Construction of the new Science Center has finally reached completion and the dedication of the $57 million structure begins today.
The idea of a new and improved science facility was conceived by a committee of science faculty members, administrators and trustees in March of 1996. In Sept. of 1997, the Board of Trustees approved a budget of approximately $57 million for construction expenses, as well as an endowment totaling $10 million that will cover maintenance and operative costs.
In its entirety, the new Science Center is the largest capital project in the College’s history.
But due to Oberlin’s recent financial difficulties, the question has been raised as to whether the amount of money invested in the Center by the College was too large.
Associate Physics Professor and Chair of the Physics/Astronomy department John Scofield, although satisfied with the new facility, feels the budget was somewhat lavish and the process of construction was inefficient at times. “Many jobs had to be done two or three times because they couldn’t get it done right the first time,” he stated. “It cost more than it should have.”
College President Nancy Dye disagreed. “We are well within range of the other science facilities of our peer institutions,” she said. “We are not in any way out of line in what we invested.”
The results certainly have been impressive and administration and faculty seem, on the whole, very satisfied with the final product. “Everyone has been really impressed with the facility,” Vice President of College Relations Al Moran said.
“I especially like the transformation the building has effected on campus,” Dye said. “It has made science more central and accessible to the entire College.”
“It’s a great facility,” stated Scofield. “The new stuff is going to be great in the future.”
The new structure is one enormous unified complex, home to all things science at the College, including all functions and services related to the biology, chemistry, neuroscience and physics departments, as well as the science library.
The Center replaces Kettering Hall, which served as Oberlin’s main science facility since 1961. Some of Kettering was only renovated in the process of building the new edifice, yet more than two-thirds of the Science Center is a completely new design and construction.
The Wright Laboratory of Physics was renovated as well, and a new wing was added, joining it to the new Center.
The Center is able to accommodate a far greater range of functions than its predecessor. The facility includes five medium-sized classrooms, four seminar rooms, a combined physics seminar/reading room, three large lecture halls including the largest on campus, an expanded library, extensive lab facilities, and a commons area, all shared by the various science-related faculty members, as well as the students of each subject.
Payette Associates of Boston, the architectural firm who designed the center, hoped to encourage collaborative learning through its design, incorporating each discipline into the same structure.
In the new complex, research space has been provided for every science faculty member and also for a much greater number of students conducting individual research projects.
This fact made Dye especially proud of the new center.
“The research labs were successfully constructed to provide intensive experience,” she said.
The center can house 45 biology student researches, 30 chemistry and 15 neuroscience. This is nearly three times the number Kettering could facilitate.
Oberlin has long been one of the strongest competitors in undergraduate science education. Faculty and administration saw the construction of a state-of-the-art facility as another step in the continuation of Oberlin’s excellence in science education. New technologies have developed expansion of departments and facilities was necessary to maintain superiority in the fields of science.

The glass-walled commons area is a popular favorite of Science Center enthusiasts. Payette and Assoc. designed the building to be inviting to all College students, not only the science majors. “You drive by at night and see through the windows 30 people studying in the commons area,” said Scofield. “That’s really a great place.”

Festivities celebrating the dedication of the center are occurring throughout the weekend and the entire campus is invited to attend. These begin Friday, Oct. 4 at 4 p.m. with the Dedication Ceremony, followed by a reception and tours of the facility
On Saturday, the center is hosting a symposium entitled “Science and Society” that begins at 9 a.m. Three speakers — two of them College alumni — will speak, followed by concluding remarks at 2 p.m.

Registration for this event will begin at 8:30 a.m., during which a continental breakfast will be served.

October 4
October 11

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