Work begins on Sr. Aquinas Weber Hall

Albertus groundbreaking

Story by Mason Glanville
Photo courtesy Mason Glanville

During a groundbreaking ceremony held in the morning of Sept. 21, work symbolically began on Aquinas College’s newest high profile project: a $32 million renovation and expansion of the Albertus Magnus Hall of Science.

The expansion is a continuation of the ongoing improvements taking place at the college under the $58 million “Contributing to More” campaign.

Present at the event were many excited faculty, students, donors and friends of the College. Attendees heard speeches and prayer from College President Kevin Quinn, Father Stan, Dean of Science and Sustainability Sister Damien Marie Savino, Chair of the Wege Foundation Jonathan Wege, and STEM student Avery Cheap.

Extending west from the current science building, the new facility will join the old at a three story glass atrium, featuring creative exhibits centering around the theme “science on display.”

The addition is to be named Sister Aquinas Weber Hall after Sister Mary Aquinas Weber, who contributed greatly to fundraising efforts for the college, and is the current Chancellor Emerita.

The science departments have seen some changes recently, including an updated Environmental Studies major and a new Health Sciences major. Sr. Aquinas Weber Hall will accommodate or expand a number of further advancements for the college, including new biochemistry and molecular biology programs, as well as the new Western Michigan University Engineering major. It will also house state of the art nursing simulation labs for the UD-Mercy nursing program.

Speaking of their excitement for having new nursing simulation labs and teaching spaces, UDM nursing faculty members Dr. Suzanne Keep, the department chair, and Dr. Becky Nauta are on the same page. “It’s really going to solidify us,” says Dr. Keep, and Dr. Nauta adds happily: “I’m geeked.”

Dean of Science and Sustainability, Sister Savino, says that the new majors and expanded research laboratories and teaching spaces will attract more students to the college and improve the learning experience of those who are already here.

Planned to be LEED Silver certified, an international standard for green buildings, the new facility is inspired by the values of che college. The new building will house the Wege Institute for Sustainability and Economicology (WISE). The current Center for Sustainability will move to the Hall and begin to operate under the umbrella of the WISE. Plans are still in development for the greater mission of the WISE, but Sister Savino hopes that it will ultimately be “a place for the Aquinas Community to grow in wisdom about how best to care for creation in a sustainable way.”

Despite some forest having to be removed to make space for the building, the largest trees are being memorialized in a number of preserved ‘cookies’ of their trunks, which will become tables and other displays for the building. There are also plans to landscape around the building with native plants in such a manner that they can be used as part of an outdoor laboratory.

If fundraising goes well, the new large lecture hall will have a “green” roof.

The completion date for the building is expected to be in the Spring of 2019, at which point renovations on the existing Albertus Hall will begin. Those renovations will wrap up the entire project in Dec. of 2019.

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