A scientist who got his start at North Central College in Naperville thought it was important the college's new science center be named for someone who actually practices a scientific career.
But this wasn't just any scientist.
The lead donor for the college's $60 million science center, dedicated Friday, is Myron Wentz, a 1963 graduate who went on to achievements in humanitarian health and nutrition as well as treatment of infectious diseases.
Wentz returned to the school -- where he said he "encountered a real maturing" as a student -- for Friday's ceremony at the beginning of homecoming weekend. He spoke about the value of the 125,000-square-foot science center bearing his name and replacing the 37-year-old Kroehler Science Center.
"Our scientific understanding has changed dramatically through the years, and over time, the facilities were outpaced by this understanding and the quality of our education, faculty and students," Wentz said, "thus creating a need to update our scientific educational environment. This remarkable, modern facility is a stellar response to that need."
Wentz's career has been a response to the needs of diagnosing and treating diseases, North Central College President Troy Hammond said as he introduced the ceremony's featured speaker.
Wentz has received the Children's Hunger Fund's Lifetime Achievement Award and the 2007 Albert Einstein Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Life Sciences for work in microbiology and immunology. He also has given back to his Naperville alma mater in the past, donating $10 million in 2003 to name the college's fine arts center and concert hall.
Students using the Dr. Myron Wentz Science Center now have 15 new classrooms, 19 study spaces, 18 teaching labs and 16 research labs to build their own scientific ability.
"The new equipment also allows us to reach a new caliber of learning and research," said Kelsey LaMartina, a biochemistry major who plans to graduate next spring. "I've witnessed students from many disciplines all work together in the same space helping one another. The feeling of community within the facility has been welcoming, and by design, fosters excellence."
When Hammond became North Central's 10th president five years ago, as a scientist and entrepreneur himself, he wanted to upgrade the college's science facilities. He heard the same priority from the community, he said, as educators wanted to bring the STEM offerings, or science, technology, engineering and math, up to new standards.
"We are now ready to become a destination for STEM education, for cutting-edge scientific work," Hammond said, "and for the best scientific thinkers, trained with a sound liberal arts education."
Learning in the new science center focuses on exploring and gaining context. The facility hosts courses in biology, physics, chemistry, psychology, math, computer science, kinesiology, and starting next fall, a new graduate-level program in occupational therapy.
"We educate students by challenging them with a variety of subjects, perspectives and possibilities," Hammond said. "We encourage students to cross traditional boundaries and explore challenges from a variety of angles. In so doing, we equip them for success in the real world -- in whatever career path they travel."