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Dedicated to Faith and Reason

Spring is always an exciting time on a college campus, but this spring has been especially so at St. Norbert College.

Just one day after a fabulous Commencement ceremony, we had the opportunity to dedicate our new state-of-the-art Gehl-Mulva Science Center. The dedication ceremony Monday, May 18, was the perfect ending to a celebration-filled weekend at the college.

As someone who is trained as a chemist, and who taught chemistry at the college level for more than 15 years, I find the building to be simply spectacular. Many science buildings are conceived with nothing but practicality in mind. While the Gehl-Mulva Science Center is all that, the building is also beautifully designed, both inside and out. Because of that, our faculty and students will be comfortable and will enjoy the many hours they spend in the building each week.

Next time you are on campus, I encourage you to take time to visit and see for yourself what a marvelous addition it makes to the campus.

A truly distinctive feature of the Gehl-Mulva – and a telling one, too – is that the main atrium and the crossway through the building line up directly with the steeple of Old St. Joe’s, imposingly evident across the way through the lofty windows of the new facility. This orientation is a deliberate one: It highlights the interplay and harmony of faith and reason that the two buildings celebrate, and serves as a reminder that we at St. Norbert are forever grounded by our Catholic, Norbertine and liberal arts traditions.

It was that juxtaposition, in fact, that made for a particular highlight of the dedication ceremony: the premier performance of music professor Blake Henson’s composition “Intersection.” The piece was composed especially for the occasion and, musically, it mirrors the Canticle of Daniel. The canticle is a hymn of praise to God the Creator by all of His creation. A striking display of the text adorns the walls of the atrium and serves as another reminder of the importance of the dialog between faith and reason.

It took many, many people to contribute the various elements that gave us this magnificent facility. But there is one individual who deserves extra recognition for his dedication to the project. That person is Larry Scheich, associate dean of natural sciences and professor of chemistry.

Larry spent several years on the planning stages for the building and has worked tirelessly over the past two years to make sure that every detail was attended to. In fact, Larry’s own colleagues in the natural science division were so impressed with his contributions to the project that they presented him with a signed plaque as a token of their appreciation. (We invited Scheich to speak to one of the true gems housed in the Gehl-Mulv – Ed.)

I am sure that regular readers of this magazine will know that we at the college often talk about transformative experience. This building will no doubt serve as a locus of transformation on our campus for the next several decades.

Most importantly, we will see our students transformed – transformed from intellectually curious, if a bit unsure, first-year students into true colleagues who have matured into capable scientists alongside their faculty mentors.

The Gehl-Mulva Science Center will provide a place for our students to study, work, investigate and experiment for many years to come. In fact, we are already seeing the impact of such a center on incoming classes. Last fall we welcomed the largest-ever class of science majors to the college – a group that was 50 percent larger than the cohort that entered the previous fall.

At this point, all indications are that we will welcome in August another sizable group of students who plan to further their science education at St. Norbert.

July 3, 2015