"This truly is a historic day at Niagara University, one that will forever change the scientific research and teaching that happens on our campus."
Those were the words used by the Rev. James J. Maher, C.M., NU president, to encapsulate Wednesday's grand opening of the B. Thomas Golisano Center for Integrated Sciences.
This afternoon's event was an opportunity to formally dedicate and bless the state-of-the-art, $33 million facility, which opened to Niagara University faculty and students at the beginning of the fall 2013 semester.
Golisano, the Paychex chairman and philanthropist whose $10 million lead commitment helped make the project possible, was on hand for the ceremonial ribbon cutting. Also in attendance was the Rev. Joseph L. Levesque, C.M., the Niagara University president who oversaw the completion of NU's recent $83 million capital campaign, of which the science center served as the crown jewel.
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"I continue to be extremely impressed by the vision and community-mindedness of Niagara University's board of trustees, as well as its Vincentian, employee and student leadership," stated Golisano. "It was Father Levesque who convinced me back in 2008 that this was a great investment to be made, and I have the utmost confidence in Father Maher's ability to ensure that Niagara University will continue to be on the cutting edge of teaching and research in the field of science. I am honored to have my name associated with such an outstanding and service-oriented institution."
The 50,000-square-foot integrated science center houses 18 laboratories, which are supported by designated areas for nuclear magnetic resonance, tissue culture, imaging, plant growth, radioisotope storage, and numerous other functions. Two of the labs, in particular, demonstrate the integrative nature of the building, with biology and chemistry possessing shared research labs that are arranged to increase collaboration between the scientific disciplines.
In addition to the comprehensive laboratory space, the Golisano Center houses two classrooms on the first floor: a 56-seat lecture hall and a 20-seat seminar room. On the second floor is a 20-seat conference room.
The facility, Maher noted, is integral to Niagara University's intention to advance its involvement in the economic and community development of the Western New York region. For years, Niagara faculty and students have conducted research with prestigious area health care providers, including the Heart Center of Niagara at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center, the Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, and Mount St. Mary's Hospital.
Maher insisted that Niagara looks forward to doing even more.
"The life sciences has been identified by the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council as one of three vital industry sectors for our region, and Niagara University fully intends to be a player in its growth and development. The B. Thomas Golisano Center for Integrated Sciences also positions Niagara to take on an increased role in the development of the Buffalo-Niagara medical corridor, and expand upon our meaningful partnerships with several area health centers," he said.
A "Science on Display" concept is an important component of the facility's design, with several mechanisms conceived to showcase the work of Niagara faculty and students. These include large windows throughout the facility that allow visitors to see from the hallways into the teaching labs; a curved video wall in the science center's lobby that will showcase research developments taking place in the building; several back-lit panels in the lobby to display various scientific images; and an interactive touch screen on the first floor that highlights information on the building, Golisano and high-achieving Niagara faculty, alumni and students.
Niagara University officials anticipate the Golisano Center will be approved at LEED's (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) silver certification level. There are posters arranged throughout the building noting its sustainable design.
Adding to the facility's aesthetics is the incorporation of 44 paintings by noted artist Michael Kessler. The artworks are part of the Castellani Art Museum's collection.
Wednesday's opening also served as an occasion for members of the Niagara University community to again express their appreciation to Golisano for his unprecedented act of generosity.
"Mr. Golisano, words cannot fully express our gratitude for your generosity," remarked Jeffrey Holzschuh, '82, chair of Niagara's board of trustees. "This facility is now the anchor academic building on our beautiful campus, and it will play a key role in the development of science and research programs for our students today, and in the future."
Senior biology major Bethany Zakrzewski added, "Mr. Golisano, I want to say a special thank you to you. It is my goal to continue my education after graduation to become a physician's assistant. I have had the experience to learn and work with great faculty members here at Niagara. We have done very good work in DePaul Hall, but, Mr. Golisano, because of your incredible generosity, my senior year is now highlighted by this amazing building."