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President’s Message / Scientific Breakthrough

Think for a moment how often your life is touched in a single day by science and technology. 

When you get up in the morning (at least if you’re like me), you’ll take a pill or two to make sure the systems are working properly. You might pop your oatmeal into the microwave and then flip on the television to catch the weather forecast, even as you pull up the local “paper” on your iPad. You’ll drive your spiffy new hybrid to work, where you’ll sit down in front of your computer to see if you have any email that isn’t spam. A friend (whose financial credentials are dubious, quite frankly) tells you things are improving in Greece, so, with a click of your mouse, you shift some of your pension savings into a different account. Later that evening you Skype the grandkids out in California. 

Tomorrow you’ll be boarding a 737 to go see them. But for now, as you head for bed, you remotely activate the house alarm and set the thermostat back to 68 degrees.

In a world so thoroughly driven by, and infused with, science and technology, it’s incumbent on higher education to make sure we are doing our part to ensure the next generation of proficiency in these disciplines. Beyond our creature comforts, America’s financial competitiveness and national security are riding on it.

I am pleased to say that St. Norbert College is about to make a huge contribution in this regard. By the time you read this, work will be under way on a dramatic expansion and renovation of our 1960s-vintage John R. Minahan Science Hall. It is a big, bold project, one that will take two full years from beginning to end.

Here’s what you can expect. The project’s signature will be a major expansion of JMS to the east, toward the Fox River. There will also be a minor addition to the western end. Over time, the interior of the existing building will be completely gutted and rebuilt as well, so that the finished product will yield an essentially new and fully state-of-the-art science facility. 

The building will also carry a new name: the Gehl-Mulva Science Center, in grateful recognition of the project’s lead donors, Paul and Carol Gehl, and Miriam ’69 and Jim Mulva. Paul and Miriam are members of our board of trustees, and both families have been extremely generous to St. Norbert College through the years. 

The new science hall will be finished in the spring of 2015. That will be just in time to welcome the first cohort of students to the Medical College of Wisconsin’s new regional campus, located here at St. Norbert. The medical college space actually will be part of the new science building, and their students also will share some of our classrooms and laboratories. This innovative partnership not only will benefit our respective institutions but all of northeast Wisconsin, as each year it will turn out dozens of locally born and educated doctors who likely will stay in this region to practice.

The Gehl-Mulva Science Center represents, by a considerable margin, the largest undertaking in our history. As a college that aspires to excellence in every respect, we owe our young science majors a facility that will meet their needs and talents. And even under construction the building will become a major drawing card for the school, especially considered in conjunction with the new medical college campus. These developments will help ensure our institutional viability for a long, long time.

The science center also represents yet one more way we honor our connection to the Norbertines who, down through the centuries, have made a specialization of science and technology. One prominent example is the school’s legendary biologist, the Rev. Anselm Keefe, O.Praem ’16

I can just imagine how proud Father Keefe will be, looking down on us, the day we cut the ribbon dedicating this new building. High time, he’d likely say – and, as usual, he’d be right!

March 27, 2013