North Central College's new science center now has a new name: the Dr. Myron Wentz Science Center.
The same man who gave $10 million for the college's fine arts center and concert hall in 2003 now has given an unspecified but "substantial and extraordinary" amount toward the science center, which opened in late March.
North Central College President Troy Hammond said the value of Wentz's naming gift can't be understated -- not only for the dollars, but also for the boost it gives to efforts to pay off the $60 million building.
"His gift gets us over the hump in fundraising and makes it possible for us to finish," Hammond said. "He's the ideal benefactor."
Wentz is a 1963 alum and honorary trustee of the college, where he had hoped to double major in music and biology.
"He's got a great passion in both music and science," Hammond said.
But in the early 1960s, a professor told Wentz he needed to choose one field, and the young man selected science.
The Children's Hunger Fund is glad he did; the organization gave Wentz the Lifetime Achievement Award for philanthropic and humanitarian efforts in health and nutrition, especially his work to create medical centers for impoverished and orphaned children in Africa and Asia.
With a doctorate in microbiology and immunology, Wentz also founded USANA Health Sciences and Sanoviv Medical Institute and has been recognized with the 2007 Albert Einstein Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Life Sciences.
Hammond said the college had been talking with Wentz over the years as officials planned and built the 125,000-square-foot science center, which Hammond said is a multidisciplinary facility to transform the way students experience science. It has a lecture hall, 15 classrooms, 19 student gathering spaces, 18 teaching labs and 16 research labs. Special-purpose spaces include an animal care suite, a treadmill research room, a sleep study space and a psychological evaluation room and a first-floor cafe.
Wentz's decision to donate to the science center comes as students are using its labs for the first time for summer research projects. Faculty members in biology, chemistry and physics are moving into the labs now to prepare for the fall.
Hammond said 75 percent of North Central students had at least one course in the science center during the spring term, when the labs were still under construction. With the building expected to be fully operational in the fall, Hammond said even more students will be able to learn in the space that soon will bear Wentz's name.
"So many students have made it a home for their studying in small groups beyond their classroom time," Hammond said. "They've really just made it their own."
On Oct. 20, during homecoming festivities, Hammond said the college plans to host Wentz for a ceremony unveiling new signs for the science center and dedicating it in the lead donor's honor.
"I hope my gift will inspire others," Wentz said in a news release, "to step forward in support of the Wentz Science Center."