Five years and nearly $65 million in the making, the newly renovated Rita Liddy Hollings Science Center is now officially open for business. The College community celebrated the grand opening of the science center Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018.
Named for alumna Rita Liddy Hollings ’57, the late wife of former U.S. Sen. Fritz Hollings, the original building was constructed in 1974, with a second phase added on in 1987. An extensive renovation of the building began in 2013 and continued until this summer. Guests for the official opening of the updated science facility sipped on carbon dioxide and ethanol – otherwise known as champagne – as Interim President Stephen C. Osborne ’73 and other dignitaries gave speeches.
“Building celebrations are always special days in the life of a university,” said Osborne. “They provide an opportunity for reflection on the university’s past and an opportunity to look toward the future. They represent the completion of a vision and inspire renewed energy in faculty, staff and students.”
Osborne wondered at the groundbreaking research that will take place in the building in the years ahead and marveled at the aesthetics and functionality of the building. He also addressed how the renovated facility reaffirms the College’s commitment to being a student-focused university.
“Enjoy the beauty of this building. And when you are on the roof looking up at the stars,” he said, speaking to students, “I challenge you to dream and dream big. Remember that you are the future, and with the tools in this building, you can accomplish anything. We believe in you, your talents and abilities, and have given you a space in which your commitment to learn, explore and research can thrive.”
One of those dreamers, Rebecca Brnich, a double major in physics and astrophysics, also spoke during the grand opening celebration, saying that she is excited about what the new building has to offer.
“In J.C. Long, we only had one lab – it was crowded and none of the students had adequate space to conduct research,” she said. “Now, every professor has their own research lab, and students of all disciplines – from meteorology to particle physics to astronomy – have the space, resources and equipment to become productive researchers.”
Previously, science students were spread out among a number of different buildings, so having all the major classes in one place is an especially welcomed development. The renovated science center initially opened to students this summer.
“Since Rita has opened, we’ve seen a huge increase in the level of interaction among students and faculty, from freshmen to seniors, and this has enhanced communication and cohesion, learning and fun,” said Brnich, who is also double minoring in mathematics and Spanish. “The long wait for such an excellent facility has made the wait more than worth it.”
The public will get its chance to enjoy the updated facility tonight, Oct. 12, 2018, with the first Open House of the Physics and Astronomy Observatory from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on the 3rd Floor. A new, 24-inch telescope will not be operational as it is still in its testing phase, but the observation deck with its many mounts for smaller telescopes will be available for viewing. If the skies are clear, Jupiter, Saturn, Mars and a waxing crescent Moon will be visible. There will also be some physics demonstrations and other activities.
The open house is free and all ages are welcome.