Largest gift in Cornell College's history to fund new science facility

1965 graduate pledges $20 million for project

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MOUNT VERNON — Cornell College in Mount Vernon will soon have a new science facility — its first new academic building in 40 years.

Alumna Jean Russell pledged the largest gift in the college’s history, $20 million, to help fund the $35 million project, which was announced Tuesday during a ceremony at the school.

Russell graduated from the private college with a degree in biology in 1965.

“At that time, the science facilities and the courses I had were good because science was still in a baby stage — technology had not really hit,” said Russell, who went on to have a career in endocrinology. “If you think about back then, we didn’t have the internet and lots of computers and lots of fancy calculators.

“Right now, the technology has grown by leaps and bounds in all areas but especially in the sciences, and an up-to-date facility is really crucial.”

The four-story, 45,600-square-foot facility will be home to biology and chemistry labs and classrooms, as well as office space and study areas.

Construction is scheduled to be finished in January 2019.

Cornell College President Jonathan Brand said he felt “numb” when Cornell secured the gift.

“There is such a joyfulness in teaching our students, and it makes you want everything possible for our students,” Brand said. “So to leave Jean’s house and think that there was an area with deficiencies that we were going to be able to remedy for our students and our faculty — that was overwhelming.”

The new building will be located south of Cornell’s South Hall and near the West Science Center.

After planned renovations to the West Science Center and Law Hall Technology Center are completed in the fall of 2019, Cornell will have almost 100,000 square feet dedicated to science, technology, engineering and math — or STEM — education, Brand said.

“These are the kinds of days where you can look at your students and know you have the privilege of serving them in even more exciting ways in the future,” he said.

l Comments: (319) 339-8330; molly.duffy@thegazette.com

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