Education

Westminster College Breaks Ground on $11.2M Project

By Ed Puskas

NEW WILMINGTON, PA. — When incoming Westminster College President Dr. Kathy Brittain Richardson visited campus during the winter of 2015, she wasn’t deterred at all by a western Pennsylvania weather pattern that featured all four seasons in a single day.

At least that was how Westminster vice president for institutional advancement Matthew P. Stinson recalled it Friday during a groundbreaking for an $11.2 million expansion of the college’s Hoyt Science Center.

Several hundred Westminster officials, faculty, donors, students and local political figures gathered to witness ground being broken for the third phase of a renovation and expansion project expected to top $20 million before its fourth and final phase is complete.

Much has changed since that day in late 2015.

“At that point, we had raised $13,000 for the project,” Stinson said.

Plans for the Hoyt Renovation and Expansion Project began in earnest in 2016. Phase 3 involves the construction of a 27,000-square foot three-story wing to include six teaching laboratories, three research laboratories, 10 faculty offices, a student collaboration space and restrooms. 

The new wing also will be home to Westminster’s Center for the Environment.

Rendering of the new wing for which construction was launched Friday.

The expansion was planned to meet the needs of the college’s dedicated dedicated faculty and what Westminster officials say is a growing segment of science, technology, engineering and mathematics — known as STEM — students.

“The Hoyt Science Center is the hub of all of our STEM programs,” Richardson said. “Right now about a third of all of our students major in programs that are housed in Hoyt and every student takes courses in mathematics and science through our liberal arts core, so it’s going to touch all students.”

One of them is junior nursing major Megan Parker, of Mercer, Pa. Parker joined Richardson, Stinson and Westminster officials Dr. Jeffrey Scott Coker, vice president for academic affairs and enrollment and dean of the College; Westminster Board of Trustees Chair Robin Willoughby Gooch; and Kenneth Romig, vice president for finance and management services in turning over shovels of dirt to launch the latest phase of the project.

Parker thanked a number of donors who have contributed much of the $16.6 million already committed to the project.

“I’m grateful that I’ve been given the opportunity to thank you all on behalf of the student body,” Parker said. “I hope I speak for everyone at large when I say that we are very thankful for your contributions to the future of Westminster College for all students.

“Words are simply not enough to thank you, but I hope I’m able to convey how appreciative the Westminster community truly is.” 

Richardson said some of the money earmarked for the project came in the form of grants secured through the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

“We received a $3 million grant [for Phases 1 and 2] and we’ve also done extensive fundraising,” Richardson said. “Our friends, both alumni and friends of the institution and some core foundations believe in the value of what we’re doing with our STEM programs here.”

Richardson said in addition to the $16.6 million already committed to the project, the commonwealth of
Pennsylvania notified Westminster over the summer that another grant of $1.5 million grant has been pledged to help fund Phases 3 and 4.

But Friday’s groundbreaking celebration went beyond money.

“Today is not a day about square feet and it’s not about dollars,” Stinson said. “Today is a celebration of what occurs inside of Hoyt and the successful outcomes of our students that as alumni are leading lives of meaning, integrity and service to others.”

Dr. Pete Smith, a professor of chemistry and chair of the division of biological, chemical and environmental sciences, can’t wait to make use of the facilities that will be available upon the completion of Phase 3 of the Hoyt project.

“I’m very excited, both personally and professionally,” Smith said. “The new expansion for the building is three new floors of chemistry labs. That’s going to increase our capacity to teach chemistry lab by three times.

“Our current facilities were built in 1974 and we’ve been living in them ever since. We have a lot of shared space. We’re teaching multiple classes in the same lab. This new facility is going to allow us to have dedicated space for our classes. It’s going to more than triple the amount of space we have available for students to do mentored research with faculty members. We’re just very excited about it.”

Smith said the project also has captivated his students.

“I would say anticipation,” said Smith, in his 18th year at Westminster. “The students who are that are in the first year, they’re very excited to move into a new space.
And actually the students who are seniors and are never going to be in that space are actually really, really excited for us because they’ve done their entire curriculum in our old space and they’re excited  for the future.”

Pictured at top: Dr. Jeffrey Scott Coker, vice president for academic affairs and enrollment and dean of the college; junior nursing major Megan Parker of Mercer, Pa.; Westminster President Dr. Kathy Brittain Richardson; Westminster Board of Trustees Chair Robin Willoughby Gooch; Kenneth Romig, vice president for finance and management services; and Matthew Stinson, vice president for institutional advancement.

Copyright 2019 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.