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Topping Out Ceremony - Browning Hall, Interdisciplinary Science Building


Friday, October 14, 2016
Mary Ann Lee Plaza, Webster Groves Campus

  • Thank you Jenny, and thank you to everyone here to celebrate with us today.
  • We stand here today in front of a beautiful symbol of vision – both the artistic vision to conceive it and the vision of our community to make it possible. The drive and support for this facility came from many sources in our community, and the vision to fit a truly interactive venue into this space on Webster’s home campus is a credit to its designers.
  • So thank you to Cannon Design, an international architecture firm based in St. Louis, for your vision on this project.
  • The architect, George Nikolajevich [NICK-ola-YEH-vich], is among the representatives from Cannon here. Also from Cannon we have:
    • Rich Bacino (Project Manager)
    • Punit Jain  (Lab Planner)
    • Lynn Grossmann (Project Architect)
    • Kelvin Patel (Project Architect) 
    • and John McAllister (Project Designer)
  • It is great to have all of you here today.
  • As you can see, this part of our campus is surrounded by several different features: We have the historic Sam Priest Center and its accompanying carriage house, the Mary Ann Lee Plaza where our ceremony takes place this morning, and the East Academic Building, which opened in 2012. It took imagination and creativity to design a building that could draw these diverse features together to make a new interdisciplinary hub of our campus, and I think you will all soon see that Cannon has done that.
  • Thanks also to our friends from Paric for executing that vision, leading so many contractors, designers, consultants and laborers who are essential to making this project come to life. Paric CEO Joe McKee is here today, as are several colleagues from Paric, including:  senior vice president Michael Rallo, vice president Chris Malone, super intendants Mike Sweeten and Steve Ray, and senior project engineers Devin Gates and Jason Szachnieski.
  • Beautiful architecture was conceived here, but as we all know, that architecture does not become reality without meticulous attention to detail and significant labor to bring all of these moving parts into a beautiful whole.
  • We have seen this action every day this summer, with trucks and crews constantly on the move – and I must say, they have always been sensitive to the fact this project is coming together in the middle of an active college campus where students, faculty, parents of Community Music School students and more are coming in and out each day.
    Of course, none of this would be possible without the guidance of our board of trustees, and the generosity of our donors. Tom Chulick is here from our board, as is past board member Elizabeth Robb and her husband, Richard.
  • In particular Jinny Browning and her late husband Larry, and the entire Browning family, who have supported Webster in so many ways over the years. Larry was a Webster trustee and chairman of the board, and his legacy lives on all around us. The Community Music School and the Emerson Library are two major examples of their support for Webster.
  • That support continues here today. Larry Browning always emphasized the importance of the sciences. In that spirit, the Brownings made a significant gift toward the construction of this Interdisciplinary Science Building, and this year we have on our faculty the first Laurance L. Browning, Jr. Endowed Professor in Biological Sciences, a position established by their endowment.
  • The St. Louis corporate community’s generosity has also played a major role in making this building a reality. In particular Emerson and Monsanto have made significant contributions for the construction of this building. Their vision and support for STEM programs at Webster is evidence of the strong spirit of partnership with the leading corporations in our region.
  • I will note this is not Webster’s first “topping out” ceremony. Almost 30 years ago in 1987, Webster celebrated much-needed expansion of its classroom and technological capacity with a topping out ceremony for the Sverdrup Complex across Edgar Road. On that occasion workers from Sverdrup and J&J Construction topped the final beam with a spruce tree, per tradition.
  • Thirty years ago the Sverdrup building addressed a pressing need for Webster as this institution grew, and so too does the one we are topping out here today. Like Professor Broeder, when I arrived in 2009 I heard from many people about this long-sought desire for a building at Webster that better facilitates and grows our strengths in the interdisciplinary sciences. Both those here today and those who came before us know it has not been an easy process. But we have persevered. The finish line is near.
  • But this building does not just address a Webster need; it addresses a regional one. As the St. Louis area’s biotechnology, plant sciences, healthcare, and financial services industries continue to grow, demand for a well-educated STEM workforce grows along with them. Responding to this need has resulted in surging growth in our biological science program, and with the opening of the Interdisciplinary Science Building we will finally have the capacity to fully respond to that program’s growth.
  • To talk a little more about that, please welcome Julian Schuster, our provost, senior vice president and chief operating officer