Mulvane Science Hall transformation begins

Professor of Biology Darcy Russell watches as sophomores Ben Coyle and Stephen Harmon perform a lab. Russell played a major role in the 10-year planning of the Mulvane Science Hall transformation.

Professor of Biology Darcy Russell watches as sophomores Ben Coyle and Stephen Harmon perform a lab. Russell played a major role in the 10-year planning of the Mulvane Science Hall transformation. Photo by Rachel Dannen.

Baker University President Pat Long says there is one true heroine when it comes to the Mulvane Science Hall transformation, Professor of Biology Darcy Russell.

“Darcy never gave up,” Long said. “She always believed that we could make this happen. And she took this on as a natural leader … she’s been involved in absolutely everything. This would not have happened without Darcy Russell … she is my hero. She is a true leader and a born leader and has done amazing things. And she’s worked incredibly hard.”

Russell and her colleagues have been working for about 10 years on four different editions and proposals of the science building.

These editions included a brand new, $30 million building next to Mabee Memorial Hall, different additions onto the current science building and the current blueprint, which includes a renovation of the current building and a 9,000-square foot addition to the back of the current building.

“I don’t feel like we’ve been doing a bad job for students,” Russell said. “The faculty go above and beyond to do a good job for students, but the facility that they’ve had to work in, and work on and work through and work from, has just not been the right facility. It hasn’t been since I got here 10 years ago. It’s been a long time to be working for this because we knew this wasn’t the right facility.”

The transformation of the Mulvane Science Hall will cost a total of $10.3 million.

Because Baker is a private university, different donors and foundations, including a $750,000 challenge grant from the J.E. and L.E. Mabee Foundation, have donated all the money.

As of Tuesday, 120 different donors had given money to the Mulvane Transformation project.

The grant from the Mabee Foundation is the largest gift Baker has received from a foundation and one of the largest contributions ever given to the university.

“It allows us to continue to give our students the very best,” Vice President of Advancement Lyn Lakin said. “… We have the best minds; let’s give them the best facilities. We have the best faculty; let’s give them the best facilities and the best tools.”

Lakin and the advancement team have worked together to meet with possible donors and to spread the word about the project.

“I haven’t really had time to process it because we’re not done yet,” Lakin said. “When we’re done, I will open a bottle of champagne and quietly sit to myself and have a big sigh of relief … it’s so, just, wonderful, and (I) do it on behalf of the university.”

Alumni and donors that Lakin and her team have met since the announcement of the Mulvane Transformation all have some sort of tie to the building or to Baker University as a whole.

For Russell, it was the fact that she was a student who remembers working in the Mulvane classrooms and the laboratories. Russell graduated from Baker in 1980.

“This is my building because I’ve been on both sides of the desk in this building,” Russell said. “I will always have a fondness for Mulvane just because I studied here.”

The chain link fence that went up Tuesday around the building might separate students from parts of the building until the renovation is complete in August, but it represents the start of 10 years of hard work.

“I guess for me, I just feel this overwhelming gratitude,” Russell said. “I just feel grateful … My overwhelming inside is just gratitude to everybody who just stayed the course to make it happen.“

The groundbreaking ceremony for the renovation will begin at 1:30 p.m. Friday outside Mulvane.

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