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Saint Mary’s dedicates science hall expansion

| Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Renovation work on the Saint Mary’s Science Hall has been a familiar sight over the past year, but no signs of bulldozers or barricades remained when the hall’s main entrance re-opened at its dedication and blessing ceremony Oct. 14.


WEB 20161024, 20161024, Kelly Vaughan, SMC science building-3Kelly Vaughan | The Observer

The renovation and expansion of the hall was made possible by a $10 million donation from Clayton and MaryAnn Mathile and their daughter, Jennifer Mathile Prikkel, who graduated from the College in 1995.

“This is a monumental and historic occasion,” Mary Burke, chair of the Board of Trustees, said. “After much planning and preparation, we gather today to celebrate Saint Mary’s continued commitment to women in science and to thank Clay and MaryAnn Mathile and their daughter Jennifer Mathile Prikkel. Their generosity marks the largest private gift in the history of the College.”

Burke said the Mathiles embody Blessed Fr. Basil Moreau’s idea of “cultivating the mind and the heart” because they understand the need for access to enhanced equipment for science in order to give back to society.

“True to the charism of the Sisters of the Holy Cross, the Mathile family’s gift is a response to the needs of our time,” Burke said. “This expansion will equip our students with the sustainable, state-of-the-art tools required to success in the classroom, and serve the greater good through their careers in science.”


Fr. Steve Newton began the blessing of the building by reflecting on the intersection of science and religion.

“It’s very appropriate that we are on a Catholic college campus dedicating a science building donated by a woman who was a religious studies major while she was here at Saint Mary’s,” Newton said. “The bridge between science and religion is long, it’s old and it’s very, very durable. There have been conflicts over the years and misunderstandings, but in fact the compatibility of faith and reason is so tight that without the one, we could not have the other, and without the other, there would be no point to the one.”

Mathile Prikkel said her gift to Saint Mary’s is a representation of her family’s life work.

“My parents … and myself are people of strong faith who feel called to share God’s blessings with others,” she said. “Much like the Sisters of the Holy Cross — whose compassion moves them to reflect on the signs of the times, discern needs and respond — my parents and I also consider Saint Mary’s mission to prepare students to make a difference in the world as congruent to our own purpose. … We invest in projects that makes God’s plans come to fruition.”

According to Mathile Prikkel, College President Emeritus Carol Ann Mooney asked the Mathile family for the donation for the Science Hall.

“She moved my family’s collective soul,” she said. “Our students and faculty now have a space worthy of their passion, devotion and knowledge and that feeds my soul, because where better to invest one’s money than in the heart of another human being?”

Mathile Prikkel said she is happy she could provide the funds to make the Science Hall project happen, especially as a graduate of the College.

“There’s something special and unique here about Saint Mary’s,” she said. “I can tell you as an alumna that the education and experience here is transformative. … Saint Mary’s College allows students to identify and embrace their inherent, God-given gifts. Here, truly, the mind and spirit are educated.”

Current Saint Mary’s President Jan Cervelli concluded the dedication by thanking Mooney for her work with the Faith Always, Action Now campaign, which was launched in 2008. The campaign raised $105 million in less than six years, according to Cervelli.

“If we expect science education and research at Saint Mary’s to be on the cutting edge — and we do expect that — then our students and faculty need the best possible facilities to do their work,” Cervelli said. “We can say with pride that a vision has come to fruition.

Cervelli said the building was designed specifically with sustainability in mind. The furniture was either reused or donated to Habitat for Humanity, sensors were added to control lighting, heating and air conditioning, the ventilation equipment allows for more precise control and notification for when service is needed and the roof was built to support the installation of a green roof, she said.

“With the most up-to-date technology and a design that facilitates the interaction and collaboration that fuels innovation, the renovated and expanded science hall will be a catalyst for discovery,” she said. “Even the building itself exhibits scientific and technological best practices. This project reflects everything we strive for at Saint Mary’s.”

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About Nicole Caratas

Nicole is a senior English Writing and Humanistic Studies double major at Saint Mary's College. Now a senior news writer, she previously served as the Saint Mary's Editor. She was born in real Chicago but grew up in the suburbs, and she currently lives in Opus Hall.

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