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Record donation given to inspire

Madeline Miles | Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A recent donation of $10 million to Saint Mary’s College Science Hall will not only serve to assist in the renovation of facilities, but also as an inspiration to invest in the education of young women in science.

Alumna Jennifer Mathile Prikkel (’95) and her parents, Clayton and MaryAnn Mathile, donated the funds. The contribution, announced March 26, is the largest single private gift in the history of Saint Mary’s College.

Clayton and MaryAnn Mathile were former owners of the Iams Pet Food Company. Prikkel, a member of Saint Mary’s College Board of Trustees, said she felt called to donate after touring Science Hall.

“I was reminded of a childhood memory of my parents and their company,” Prikkel said. “And it collided with what Saint Mary’s does — to educate, to be objective and [to] use your heart.”

Prikkel said she hopes to renovate the facilities and inspire others to follow her example of investing in the education of the young women at Saint Mary’s College.

“It was to really challenge people to invest their money in the life of a young woman who not only learns through her mind, but through her heart,” Prikkel said.

According to the press release, the gift to renovate the Science Hall will support carefully planned, phased improvements to the structure.

Science Hall will be modernized to create new learning and study spaces that encourage students to collaborate with their peers. Labs will be refurbished and expanded, which will not only help biology, chemistry and physics students, but also support growing programs such as nursing. In addition, updated equipment and technology will be purchased.

Students and faculty are especially appreciative. Dr. Nancy Nekvasil, chair of the Biology Department, said the contribution is an inspiration to both students and faculty alike.

“It also says to students that someone out there does care, and other people do care about what the sciences are doing at Saint Mary’s,” she said. “It’s about gratitude for others and caring to be a part of that.”

Director of Media Relations Gwen O’Brien said the renovation would improve facilities for students and faculty alike.

“The details of the renovation include creating learning labs that support an interdisciplinary pedagogy, relocating and expanding the computer lab, renovating and replacing lighting and heating, ventilation and air conditioning and other systems,” she said.

According to the press release, a timetable for plans for building and renovations have yet to be determined.