Celebrating science

A crowd of chilly but very happy Denisonians gathered on campus Friday afternoon for the re-dedication of the newly renovated and expanded Ebaugh Laboratories, and even the brisk autumn breeze was no match for the depth of pride in our beautiful new building and the excitement of formally dedicating such an important new element in the teaching and learning of science at Denison.

Speakers during the historic event included Chairman of the Board of Trustees Thomas Hoaglin ’71, President Dale Knobel, Chairman and Chief Investment Officer of the Sherman Fairchild Foundation Walter Burke ’71, Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry Peter Kuhlman, and student Louise Carroll ’12, who is a chemistry department fellow.

During the dedication ceremony, President Dale Knobel provided informative and sometimes whimsical historical context for the teaching of chemistry at Denison.

Chemistry classes were first conducted in Barney Hall, but fire gutted that building in 1905, so the department moved to the basement of the Doane Academy building.

But Doane didn’t turn out to be the perfect home for chemistry. The late Professor Emeritus Bill Hoffman enjoyed recounting anecdotes he had heard about “noxious aromas” from the chem lab rising through the upper floors of Doane, and by 1925, there was a movement on to “kick them out into a shed.”

The answer to the problem was a quickly constructed “Chemistry Cottage.” Apparently such relief was expressed in Doane about the removal of the chemistry department from Doane that Professor Ebaugh said, “the fire menace is removed, and the pollution of the whole building by fragrant hydrogen sulphide, chlorine, and other gases high in the odor of sanctity ceases.”

It was supposed to be a temporary fix, but instead, Chemistry Cottage housed the department for more than 40 years, until the initial construction of Ebaugh Labs and Herrick Hall in 1966.

Now, with the new Ebaugh Labs, the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry is housed in a spectacular new facility that Chairman of the Board of Trustees Thomas Hoaglin ’71 rightly called “A 21st century building for 21st century science.”

And, as President Knobel pointed out during the dedication on Friday, “There is nothing temporary about it!”

Burke, who represented the project’s lead donor, The Sherman Fairchild Foundation, described the sheer pleasure he felt in awarding the $5 million gift to Denison that enabled the project, and Hoaglin thanked the project’s other major donors who were inspired by the foundation gift to join in and make the building possible, including the Booth Ferris Foundation, Hollis Smith French ’76 and T. Bondurant French, Trustee Sharon Smith Martin ’65 and J. Landis Martin, Trustee William C. Mulligan ’76 and Harriet Blair Mulligan ’76, Edwin S. Parsons ’41 and Tai D. Shigaki ’44, James B. Summers Jr. ’77 and Sheryl A. Summers, as well as the late Beverly Thomsen Fleischmann ’41 and Robert C. Fleishmann, the late J. Donald Kincaid ’30 and Julianne D. Kincaid, the late Robert H. McCulloch ’47 and Patricia M. McCulloch and the late William B. Snyder ’36 and Laura S. Snyder.

The original Ebaugh Laboratories were built in 1966 and named for William Clarence Ebaugh, chemistry professor from 1917 to 1945. The renovation and expansion, which took 17 months to complete, has significantly updated the original 32,000 square foot facility, while adding more than 19,000 square feet.

To honor the past, several artifacts from Denison’s history with chemistry grace the modernized building, including items such as a lab stool from the 1920s that was used in the college’s old chemistry “cottage,” and a safe dating back to the 19th century that stored chemicals and precious metals. In addition, the southwest stairwell of the original building was intentionally left intact.

In describing the extraordinary ways the new Ebaugh Labs enhances science, Knobel said, “It is a building with spaces designed to advance Denison’s hands-on, experiential teaching and learning. Spaces within the building are modular, allowing a conventional teaching lab to be reconfigured within minutes for group projects and research. Collaboration is key in today’s undergraduate science experience. Students work together; they work closely with faculty; and they work across disciplines conducting research.”

Carroll, who provided a student’s perspective, agreed completely. “This level of collaboration and impromptu tutoring is a direct result of the atmosphere at this college, in this department, and in the physical layout of this new building,” she said.

Not only is the renovated Ebaugh better suited to the times, it’s green, too. This, the college’s most recent construction project, follows Denison’s ongoing policy to conduct all new building and renovations to meet the United States Green Building Council Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification standards. The building’s environmental footprint has been minimized by repurposing space and reusing building materials, including 800 tons of materials that were harvested from demolition. Sustainable construction practices were used throughout the project, and more than 20 percent of the materials came from within 500 miles of campus, further reducing energy use.

The renovated Ebaugh was designed by JBA Architects of Newark, Ohio, with Steve Stein and Tom Nugent as principal design architects for the project. Lincoln Construction of Columbus, Prater Engineering of Dublin, Ohio, and Research Facilities Design of San Diego were all part and parcel to the success of this project, along with an impressive level of consultation, hard work and dedication from the college’s faculty and staff, particularly from the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and from Facilities Services and Administrative Services. One of those who was particularly lauded for her hard work during the process was Sonja McKay, associate professor of chemistry, who was designated the faculty “project shepherd.”

A two-day slate of well-attended events led up to the dedication ceremony, including Alumni Career Panels in science; an Alumni Seminar in Memory of Dr. Bill Hoffman entitled “Biofuels: A Growing Energy Industry” by professor Shelie Miller ’00 of the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Environment; a Chemistry and Biochemistry Alumni Dinner; a Keynote Lecture on “Science in the Service of Society” by Professor Julio de Paula of Lewis and Clark College; and a morning-long Research Symposium on 12 topics ranging from “The Search for New Drugs to Treat Alzheimer’s Disease” to “The Chemistry of Medical Imaging,” and much more.

Now, even though the festivities and the physical renovation of Ebaugh Labs has been completed, the building will continue to grow in ways that enhance research and discovery. Denison students and faculty members will spend the coming years exploring and making breakthroughs in the sciences of chemistry and biochemistry, and beyond. Ebaugh Labs now joins Samson Talbot Hall of Biological Science and F.W. Olin Science Hall in bring Denison’s science facilities to the cutting edge of teaching and research, affirming the college’s leadership in advancing the sciences within the 21st Century liberal arts model.

Click here for a first person view inside Ebaugh Laboratories when construction was just wrapping up.



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