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By ALAN J. ORTBALS
p14 McKendreeStephanie Spradling, a biology student, presents her research on the ‘Learning and Cognition of Zebrafish’ to guests at the Forward Campaign Kick-Off on May 7.    Last May, McKendree University announced the most ambitious fund-raising goal in its 188-year history — a $40 million capital campaign to support the renovation of Voigt Science Hall and Holman Library.
    To date, the university has raised more than $25 million of its goal in donations and pledges. At an event on May 7 it launched the public phase of “Forward – The Campaign for McKendree University.”
    “For 188 years it has been alumni, parents and friends who have come forward to provide support for this university at critical moments,” said Dan Lett, chair of the board of trustees. “It is because of this generosity that McKendree can look to the future with confidence and be assured that others will step forward as well. We are indeed grateful.”
    The renovations will ensure McKendree students and faculty have access to improved, state-of-the-art technology for teaching, learning and research, said Dr. James Dennis, university president.
    “This campaign will be transformational for McKendree students for generations, comprising our primary academic needs and highlighting our commitment to the development of young scientists, doctors, dentists, veterinarians, environmentalists, agricultural specialists, mathematicians, researchers, teachers, engineers, inventors and many others,” Dennis said. “Our campaign goal is to create a modern, state-of-the-art science facility that will nurture and challenge our best students.”  
    Built in 1965, Voigt Science Hall was the first modern educational addition to the campus. Named after Edwin E. Voigt, the college president from 1964 to 1968, it is central to the university’s growing science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs.
    The size of the Voigt Science Hall would nearly double with planned capital improvements include redesigned multipurpose classrooms, a large lecture hall, more space for student research, additional labs, offices, a rooftop observatory and informal meeting spaces to promote group learning. An addition to the building’s north end will feature a new formal entrance, lobby and elevator.
    All McKendree undergraduate students complete at least one course in biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics or computer science, Dennis noted. In the last five years, the biology pre-professional major has experienced more than 100 percent growth; the computer science major has increased by 54 percent.
    “If we want to keep pace with the demands of the sciences, we have to have a facility, a space that allows you to expand,” said Dr. Robb Van Putte, the Harvey C. Pitt and Winifred Ann Pitt professor of biology.  “We know that if we are afforded the opportunity to renovate this space and build this building the way that we know it needs to be, things will happen that just can’t happen now.”  
    Holman Library, which opened in 1969, will be transformed to provide the latest technologies, access, data and resources required by students and faculty for their academic work. The renovated library will be a center for collaboration as well as quiet study and research. Features will include the university Archives and Museum, compact shelving for print resources, expanded computer labs and group meeting areas, upgraded lecture rooms, improved access to technology, and a coffee and snack bar.
    “Libraries are moving to a more user-centric layout,” said Victoria Dowling, senior vice president.  “Academic libraries are no longer simply a location to collect and organize print resources. They have become an integral part of a university’s learning culture and academics, by providing both traditional research and technical services and the latest in computer technology and associated technology support services.  The user-centric layout also provides a forum for students to work collaboratively, while also meeting individual needs through private, contemplative spaces.”
    Other campaign objectives call for improvements to infrastructure and technology in the classrooms of Old Main, built in 1850, and Clark and Carnegie Halls, built in 1911. Additional funds will support endowed student scholarships; endowed faculty positions; programs, services and co-curricular activities; classroom and laboratory equipment; salaries and professional development.
    “I thank you for consideration of supporting us in the future and for your actions to continue to make this place the very special place that it is,” said Dennis.  “The call to advance our university into the future again, is an affirmation of our mission to constantly strive to provide a high quality educational experience to outstanding students.  McKendree University deserves nothing less.”
    To donate, go to www.mckendree.edu/forward/index.php