By Felicia A. Petro/Senior Reporter
GROVE CITY —
Former presidents, faculty, trustees and friends of Grove City College gathered to celebrate in the courtyard of the Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics Hall on Thursday - which opened this fall to students after two years of construction.
"This is a magnificent facility behind us. We're thankful to friends, alumni, faculty and especially God who has bestowed His riches upon us," said David Rathburn, chair of the college's board of trustees.
The college's objective is to train students "in the classical style that we all agree differentiates Grove City College from others," Rathburn said. "Now we can do that in an environment second to none."
Rathburn's family made the largest contribution to the building of Rathburn Hall last year, which is devoted to Christian service groups on campus and houses the dean of the chapel.
Rathburn and STEM halls are both are part of a $90 million capital campaign that also includes money for scholarships and programs on campus.
The school generally does building projects debt free and the board of trustees struggled taking out a loan for the STEM building, Rathburn said.
However, "To maintain and attract a great faculty, we had to have a great facility," he said. Science buildings on campus such as Rockwell Hall - which has GCC's signature clock tower - and Hoyt Hall had become aged and outdated.
The school also learned that building costs "would escalate when the economic crisis was over," Rathburn noted. "We believe we saved millions building (STEM) when we did. And we knew alumni and friends would step up (with donations)."
About two-thirds of the funds for the campaign have been raised in two years.
Dr. John Moore, predecessor to President Dr. Richard Jewell in leading GCC, was the keynote speaker on Thursday, stating how important STEM is to the future of the college in a world driven by those disciplines.
The nation's economic crisis "can't blind us to importance of science and technology in the economy and the growing competition ...," Moore said. "Progress in science and technology is crucial for economic growth."
The U.S. is a leader in these fields and has the world's top universities that "attract huge numbers of students from overseas than anywhere else," he said.
However, "The world is changing and catching up to us," Moore said, particularly China, which is awarding more bachelor's and doctoral degrees in science and technology than the U.S.
Manufacturing is also on the rise in these fields in China, while the U.S. is seeing a decline. "High technology is not limited to manufacturing but in business services, like communications and finance," he added. The U.S. is still a leader in business services, but its growth has seen a decline while China's is steadily rising.
"My point is we're not doing badly in absolute terms; we're still the largest and most important country in the world in high technology fields," Moore said. "What's happening is that other countries have intensified their efforts and are catching up or passing us in crucial areas of science and engineering education and its applications to the economy."
GCC is a small fish in a big pond; however, it provides a "first- class faculty," Moore said, "that has only improved in the last decade" under Jewell's lead as president.
Knowledge is just one piece of the puzzle; the college is also ahead of the game with innovation by having both entrepreneurship and STEM graduates who could create new enterprises together, Moore added.
The largest asset is the college's Christian world view that brings morality and wisdom to the field of science and technology that can "go awry" without that compass of good as a guide, he said. "Here, Grove City College stands virtually alone. Here, we have the whole package."
Dr. Stacy G. Birmingham, dean of Albert A. Hopeman Jr. School of Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics, also spoke about the process that went into building STEM Hall two years ahead of schedule.
"We spent countless hours planning this facility," she said, to create a modern, bright, environmentally friendly building with glass-accentuated hallways, labs and exterior walls that put "science in sight."
Jewell quoted early presidents involved in building dedications in GCC's history.
Reading their stories "is a wonderful way to deepen yourself more in the history of Grove City College," he said, pointing out that the school's fifth president, Dr. Charles MacKenzie, was also at Thursday's ceremony.
A Phase 2 of the project will eventually include razing and rebuilding Rockwell Hall, which will be linked with STEM to make it one complex.
"This is a great day in our history. We've had great days in our history. We will have great days in our future. Because this is Grove City College, built on that rock and not the sand of Matthew 7:25," Jewell said, referring to a Bible passage.
"Rains have come, wars have come, depressions have come. Over those hard times in the nation and world, this institution has endured. ... (Founder) Isaac Ketler's vision is alive and well when he organized the school 138 years ago."
Published Sept. 21, 2013, in Allied News. Pick up a copy at 201 A Erie St., Grove City.