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The Northerner

‘Century of science’ unfolds with science center dedication

Lori Cox

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Brittany Contois

We are living in what has been called the “Century of Science” and the new Natural Science Center is a living testament of our times, NKU President James Votruba said at the center’s dedication ceremony Sept. 20.

A large crowd composed of legislators, business leaders, faculty, staff, students, alumni and community members gathered to celebrate what Votruba called “a special day we can all be proud of.”

Votruba specifically welcomed many individuals whose hard work and dedication made the Natural Science Center a reality after more than a decade of planning. Among those mentioned were the past and present members of the Board of Regents and House Democratic Caucus Chairman Jim Callahan.

Callahan was instrumental in the passing of the Postsecondary Education Bill in 1997, which led to the Kentucky General Assembly’s approval of funding for the center in 1998. His “fingerprints will always be on this project,” Votruba said.

The Natural Science Center, a $38 million facility, has been nationally recognized for its cutting edge technology. It will allow a hands-on learning experience for students Pre-K through graduate school.

Chemistry students can use a magnetic resonance spectrometer, biotech classes can study on a molecular level and physics students can measure cosmic rays and study the origin of the universe.

The science center has “equipment any scientist in the country would die for,” Rogers Redding, vice president for NKU Academic Affairs and provost, told the crowd.

The center will provide the opportunity for undergraduate research and scholarly learning usually available only to graduate students, according to Redding. While the chemistry, biology and physics programs will remain strong individually, the new technology will allow the integration of knowledge across disciplines, which is the hallmark of current research, he said.

Redding believes the center embodies the pivotal role science plays in society and the future. Faculty and students will have the opportunity to work with business and industry in the Northern Kentucky area, as well as explore “the grand vistas and expanses of science.”

The third speaker, Brenda Wilson, chair of NKU Board of Regents, said the Natural Science Center will have an impact on “future generations of Northern Kentuckians in ways we can’t imagine” and hopes it will “create a love of science in all students, pre-K through graduate school.”

Wilson thanked,Kentucky Gov. Paul Patton in particular, for getting the votes to make the science center a reality.

Gov. Patton, who has been coined the “education governor,” proved he was just that by getting the votes necessary to turn a vision into reality, he said.

Gov. Patton was scheduled to speak at the dedication but cancelled.

Instead, he held a press conference in Frankfort Friday afternoon where he admitted to an affair with Tina Conner, a Kentucky businesswoman, but denied allegations of sexual harassment or abuse of power.

Charles Whitehead, president of Ashland, Inc. Foundation called the science center “a world-class facility that will train world-class scientists.”

It is incumbent on the university to remember its responsibility to improve the lives of people and the community, Votruba said.

After the ceremony, Dr. Leon Booth, former President of NKU, said he had to “pinch himself” to believe it was real. “It’s a modern Cinderella story – the shoe fit,” Booth said. While Booth admits to laying the groundwork for the science center project, “it took the savvy of President Votruba and his administration to get the job done.”

“It will have a ripple effect for hundreds of years to come,” he said.

Alice Sparks, who helped in the creation of the center, described the dedication as “very emotional.”

She had not gone into the building yet because she was afraid, after all the years and work, it would not be real.

Two recent NKU graduates, Crystail Meagher and Danielle Vereen, both chemistry majors, described the new facility as fabulous and high tech. “I really wish I was still a student here to utilize the facilities,” Meagher said. However, the 172,000 sq. feet of sleek, modern design and 48 state-of-the-art classrooms weren’t all that impressed them.

“There’s a Starbuck’s in there!” Vereen said.

President Votruba said the Natural Science Center is the finest facility of its sort that can found anywhere and proof that great things can happen when a group of dedicated people come together with a common goal.

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The Independent Student Newspaper of Northern Kentucky University.
‘Century of science’ unfolds with science center dedication