There was noticeable excitement in the air as a large crowd settled into the cushy seats in the Heiland Theatre on the charming, snow-blanketed Wilmington College campus. The group of students, faculty and alumni was buzzing about the future as they gathered for a Jan. 24 groundbreaking ceremony for the Center for the Sciences and Agriculture. The new facility will transform the teaching of math, science and agriculture at Wilmington College. Construction will begin soon on a 13,500-square foot addition to the 34,000 square-foot Kettering Hall, which will undergo a complete renovation. Expected completion is August 2015.
“There will be new labs and new classroom space and facilities that are up to par with the type of program and the faculty that we have had for years,” said Adam Lohrey, agriculture studies recruiter for Wilmington College. “Over the last four years we have had 25% growth each year in the agricultural program and we are over 250 students currently. Wilmington is a small college with 1,100 students enrolled. This is an investment in what we do and it will really help us move forward with the program.”
The new facilities will complement the current agricultural student experience at Wilmington.
“We have a student farm that is 267 acres a mile away from campus. Our students are there on a weekly basis working with the goats and the cattle and the sheep,” Lohrey said. “They really have that on-farm experience while they are here.”
The new addition and renovated structure will include 10 laboratories, three research labs, 10 classrooms, two conference rooms and 30 offices to emphasize opportunities for hands-on learning, including student research and other student/faculty interaction. The building has been designed to achieve a silver or gold LEED certification as an environmentally friendly “green” building in its design, construction, operation and maintenance.
The facility will accommodate record numbers of agriculture and science students enrolling at the College. Wilmington faculty members feel that the new facility will be one more tool to prepare graduates to excel in their fields, enroll in graduate and professional schools, and embark upon successful and self-actualizing careers.
“This is a really special time for the college and there are great opportunities in front of us,” said Jim Reynolds, Wilmington College president. “This has been a long time coming. I believe in this place we can do remarkable things.”
The USDA Rural Development Agency provided a $20 million community facilities loan for the project. Donations have generated around $6 million and there is a goal to raise additional funds for the large project that generated ample enthusiasm on campus in spite of the frigid temperatures.
“We have come along way through some tough economic times to get to this day and here we are breaking ground in zero degree weather,” said Bob Touchton, chairman of the Wilmington College Board of Trustees. “The renovation and expansion of Kettering is just the beginning of several new projects at Wilmington College. We have something special to offer at Wilmington College and we want to make sure that experience will be available for generations into the future.”