When Monmouth College selected a keynote speaker for the dedication of its $40 million Center for Science and Business, it would have been hard to find a more perfect choice than WGN Radio’s Orion Samuelson.
On a day that officially ushered in “a new academic era” at Monmouth, Samuelson represented several of the college’s ideals, including a career spent at the junction of science and business and solid Midwest roots. The title of his recent autobiography, “You Can’t Dream Big Enough,” mirrors the college’s “audacious” dreams behind constructing the new facility, and Samuelson’s smooth, listener-friendly voice was also a plus.
Before Samuelson took the podium for his address, Dean David Timmerman offered welcoming remarks.
“Isn’t it wonderful?” Timmerman asked the overflow crowd, many of which had toured the four-story building in the two hours leading up the May 10 ceremony. They responded in applause. Timmerman went on to call the building “a game-changer” for the college.
Other platform speakers were associate professor of chemistry Audra Sostarecz; Monmouth College president Mauri Ditzler; psychology/business major Donasia Rasheed, a junior from Freeport; and board chairman William Goldsborough ’65. Psychology professor Jane Jakoubek delivered the invocation and the Rev. Dr. Teri Ott, MC’s chaplain, closed the ceremony with a benediction.
In his remarks, Samuelson told of three of his personal heroes – Dr. Norman Borlaug, Harold Brock and Abraham Lincoln. Borlaug, the recipient of the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize, made contributions to the “green revolution” that “saved a billion lives,” and Brock created two iconic tractors while working for Ford and John Deere.
Lincoln, he said, was “the best friend that farmers ever had in the White House,” and he cited several bills that the president signed, including one for the land-grant university system. The research conducted in those university labs, said Samuelson, “has saved billions of lives.”
Ditzler opened his remarks by calling attention to the banner hanging on the building’s entrance that reads “A new academic era for Monmouth College.”
“I like the sense of excitement that accompanies this bold proclamation,” he said. “It reflects our audacious dreams. For Monmouth College, good enough isn’t good enough. Whatever we have done before, no matter how good, we want to do better tomorrow.”
Ditzler also announced that each of the academic levels of the building has been named. He became emotional as he announced the namesake of the third level, the late Richard “Doc” Kieft, who taught chemistry at Monmouth for 31 years and was a leading proponent of the building.
“The last time I spoke with Doc, I promised him that this building would be built and that his legacy would live within it,” said Ditzler. “So I am pleased to announce that the third floor of this building will be known as Kieft Hall.”
Other floors of the building are named for two alumni – former chairman of the board David Byrnes’ 72, who with his wife, Libby, provided one of the first major gifts, and board member Gerald Marxman ’56.
“Conventional wisdom was that this project was too big for Monmouth,” said Ditzler. “Doubters said we could never raise $40 million for a single project. David and Libby Byrnes were among the first to say ‘Yes, you can.’”
Marxman, a rocket scientist who went on to be a successful entrepreneur, was praised for building a better world through his “keen understanding of science and his business acumen” and for his generosity to his alma mater.
Ditzler also lauded former board chairman Peter Bunce, who has a plaza outside the building named in his honor.
“No single individual played a bigger role in creating the beauty that surrounds us than Peter Bunce,” said Ditzler. “For more than three decades, Peter has reminded us that it’s not the right time to build if we can’t build it right. With remarkable creativity and generosity he has brought us to this remarkable day.”
Goldsborough, who with his wife, Beverly, issued a challenge grant that raised the final dollars necessary for construction to begin, called the dedication festivities “a red letter day” for Monmouth. He also said the college got a good value for its investment and, in particular, praised President Ditzler and 1976 Monmouth graduate Stan Pepper, the longtime leader of Pepper Construction and a member of the college’s board.
At the conclusion of Goldsborough’s remarks, a student from each of the academic disciplines that will be represented in the building was asked to come forward and place soil in a container. The symbolic ceremony was part of a new tradition at the college – a tradition that had been started by the Class of 2015 two years earlier, when their matriculation ceremony came hours after the cornerstone ceremony for the Center for Science and Business.
Students in those disciplines – accounting, biology, business, chemistry, mathematics and computer science, physics and psychology – will benefit from a facility with many new features. They include a nutrition laboratory, a cadaver room, a nuclear lab an undergraduate counseling lab. Also among the many new features are accounting breakout rooms to facilitate the college’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, a moot board room and a food dispensing area.