Cornell unveils plans for $35 million science center

Cornell College President Jonathan Brand announces plans for the new Russell Science Center on Feb. 14 in Mount Vernon. PHOTO CHASE CASTLE

By Chase Castle
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Cornell College plans to open a $35 million science center on the college’s campus in Mount Vernon, marking the first time in 40 years the college has constructed a new academic building.

In less than two years, the college raised more than $32 million for the project. That feat was made possible in large part thanks to a donation from alumna Jean Russell, who donated $20 million—the largest in Cornell College history.

Cornell College President Jonathan Brand said the benefits the Russell Science Center will bring to the college are enormous.

“Just think about this: science education, on the block, in cutting edge spaces and facilities—there’s nothing better,” Mr. Brand said at Tuesday’s announcement. “I choose to believe this is a powerful emblem for where Cornell College and where it is headed.”

The overall project includes the construction of a four-story, 45,600 square foot science building and the renovation of the current West Science Center and Law Hall to house STEM studies.

The four floors of the new building will house biology and chemistry lab spaces and classrooms, faculty offices, dedicated research space and study areas. Math and computer science programs will join physics and engineering in West Science and kinesiology will have two floors of Law Hall, according to Cornell communications staff.

Benjamin Greenstein, associate dean of the college and a professor of geology, said the new building will integrate lab and classroom spaces, in addition to bringing faculty closer together.

“In the sciences, really, the pedagogical statute is to remove that physical and conceptual wall between the research lab and the teaching lab, and when you do the research, doing science the way we teach science, and the new building will foster that,” Mr. Greenstein said.

Last week, the board of trustees authorized construction of the science center, scheduled to begin this spring and finish in January 2019. Renovations at West Science and Law Hall should finish in fall 2019.

The college will now turn to raising the remaining $3 million needed for the project as it enters into the public phase of its “Greater > Than” fundraising campaign.