Loren Swartzendruber, president of EMU, discusses plans for renovating the Suter Science Center on Monday, March 25, 2013. Over $5 million has already been raised towards the $7 million goal with additional funds expected to be raised in the next 12 to 19 months. "We're experiencing strong momentum for the project – the time is right," said Swartzendruber. (Photo by Jonathan Bush)

Fresh Plans Unveiled for Modernizing the Suter Science Center

Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) unveiled updated plans on March 25, 2013, for renovating its Suter Science Center, a storied facility named after a beloved and widely respected professor, Dr. Daniel B. Suter (1920-2006). The plans incorporate the latest in technology and safety standards.

Referring to the $7 million fundraising target to implement the renovations, “we can get our arms around these plans,” said Gerry Horst of New Holland, Pa., a construction-company owner who chairs the Suter Science Campaign steering committee and who is an EMU trustee. “The plan is doable, environmentally and fiscally responsible,” he added. “It will give our top-notch faculty and students the facilities they need to continue to be successful.”

The plans were announced at a half-day event for some 50 guests, who viewed schematics prepared by Blue Ridge Architects of Harrisonburg, in consultation with LSY of Silver Spring, Md., which specializes in laboratory construction.

Kirk Shisler, EMU vice president for advancement, chats with architects from Blue Ridge Architects, Harrisonburg, Va., and LSY Architects, Silver Spring, Md. (Photo by Chelsie Gordon)

Kirk Shisler, vice president for advancement, said $5,136,741 has already been raised in cash and commitments toward the $7 million goal. He said the remaining amount necessary to undertake the renovations is expected to be raised in the next 12 to 19 months.

“We are eager to complete fundraising so improvements can be made as soon as possible,” said President Loren Swartzendruber. Referring to the successful conclusion of the “quiet phase” of fundraising for the renovation, “we’re experiencing strong momentum for the project – the time is right.”

The renovations will poise EMU for the future and allow EMU science programs to keep pace with technology, research, and trends in fields such as health care for an aging population and environmental science, as well as enable new programs in pre-engineering and biomedical science to grow.

“Here at EMU is where the research opportunities are at,” said junior Autumn Berry in a brief presentation to the donors and community members who gathered to see the renovation plans. Berry is a pre-professional health student who transferred to EMU from a large public university. She is researching neurotransmitters alongside Greta Ann Herin, PhD, associate professor of biology.

Hundreds of science alumni “who serve and lead with distinction are proof that the quality of EMU’s program is unsurpassed,” said Shisler. “Now is the time to upgrade facilities to match the quality of our program.” Since opening in 1968, the Suter Science Center has been the springboard for 3,528 alumni who majored in a scientific discipline, including 890 employed in the Shenandoah Valley, largely as nurses, educators and physicians.

Guests attend presentations for the Suter Science Campaign, March 25, 2013. (Photo by Jonathan Bush)

“In renovating and upgrading our labs and learning spaces, we will be enabling our future graduates to continue to be in strong demand in graduate schools and in the job market,” said Shisler. “At the same time, we will be ensuring their safety as a result of installing the best-possible air-exchange systems for working with chemicals and the best-possible conditions for their studies using cadavers and animals.”

EMU’s anatomy and physiology students are among a select group of undergraduates nationwide who have the opportunity to work with human cadavers, rather than with simulations or models of cadavers.

“Our cadaver program is just one example of the unique hands-on opportunities that EMU provides,” explained biology professor Doug Graber Neufeld, PhD. All EMU biology and chemistry students are required to do original research, he told those gathered to see the fresh building plans. Each year up to 22 students are involved in research, he added, and eight to 10 publish their findings in journals, making them stand-outs when seeking further education.

More information about the Suter Science Campaign is available online, or by contacting Kirk Shisler, vice president for advancement, at kirk.shisler@emu.edu or 540-432-4499.

View photo slideshow of Suter Science Center gathering…