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Donor funds Science Hall renovation

Madeline Miles | Friday, August 19, 2011

Recent donations from alumnae will allow the College to renovate its Science Hall, as well as invest in other science-related fields.

Saint Mary’s Science Hall, which houses the departments of biology, chemistry and physics, will receive modernized equipment and updated systems after a $10 million donation from an alumna. Saint Mary’s President Carol Ann Mooney announced the gift in March.

Jennifer Mathile Prikkel, a 1995 College graduate, and her parents, Clayton and MaryAnn Mathile, donated the funds to the school in the spring. The contribution is the largest single private gift in College history.

“This transformational gift will provide facilities equal to the quality of our students and faculty,” Mooney said in a press release when the College announced the donation. “Saint Mary’s has taught science to women for nearly 150 years, and this gift will ensure that our current and future students will work in cutting-edge laboratories and classrooms.”

The renovations will include creating learning labs that support an interdisciplinary pedagogy and relocating and expanding the computer lab. The donation will also provide funds to renovate and replace lighting and heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems, Director of Media Relations Gwen O’Brien said.

A time line has not been set for the project.

Prikkel, a member of the Saint Mary’s Board of Trustees, said she felt called to donate after touring the Science Hall. The College’s mission reminded her of the way her parents, the former owners of the pet food company Iams, often invested in science education.

“[That memory] collided with what Saint Mary’s does — to educate, to be objective and [to] use your heart,” Prikkel said in a recent interview.

In the press release announcing the donation, Prikkel said the gift is a strong endorsement of Saint Mary’s mission.

“Saint Mary’s produces scientists who are socially aware, who are making a difference in the world,” she said. “I recently met two seniors whose research uses inexpensive paper analytical devices (PADs) in the wars against malaria and elephantitis. I was amazed at their work. Imagine what our students will be able to do when they have state of the art facilities in which to study and do their experiments.”

The donation was followed by another significant gift to science education at Saint Mary’s. This summer, Mooney also announced a bequest of $4.7 million in the will of alumna Marjorie Neuhoff. The bequest from the 1961 Saint Mary’s graduate is the largest in the history of the College.

The gift will be used to establish endowments for a chair in nursing, a need-based scholarship and the Summer Science Research Communities, according to a press release.

“Marjorie Neuhoff was a professional woman known for her business acumen. She also had a great love for Saint Mary’s. In her memory, and with the consideration of her family, we have invested her bequest in areas of the College where we see increasing student interest,” Mooney said in the release. “Our hope is she would see these as sound investments in an institution with which she had a strong personal connection.”

The Marjorie Neuhoff Summer Science Research Communities will begin in the summer of 2013.