Since opening in 1968, the Suter Science Center has been an important site of learning, research and inspiration for hundreds of Eastern Mennonite University’s alumni working in the STEM fields. Collin Longenecker ‘20 represented them all at the Saturday, Oct. 16, Suter West dedication ceremony when he called the building his “home away from home” during the four years he earned his engineering degree at EMU.
The young alumnus added personal thanks to the more than 700 donors who contributed to the newly transformed, energy-efficient, well-lighted and state-of-the art spaces so important to his education — where he worked on projects, learned in classrooms, studied for exams, and engaged with professors.
The ceremony, attended by a veritable “Who’s Who” of EMU STEM history, marked the end of the second and final phase of the multi-year, $12 million Suter Science Center renovations. Suter East, the first phase, and its new biology, chemistry, and physics labs, classrooms and office space, was dedicated in October 2015. [View the recorded ceremony on EMU’s Facebook Live page.]
The ceremony, initially scheduled for 2020 but delayed a year by the pandemic, provided a wonderful “finish line” for a host of guests, including Vice President for Advancement Kirk Shisler, who has led the multi-year fundraising campaign.
“Today’s dedication of Suter Science Center West is a truly exhilarating moment for many people who worked hard over many years, both to raise the $12 million in philanthropic support to fund the renovations, and to design and implement the major renovations of Suter East and now Suter West,” he said. “It’s even more gratifying to see how students and faculty are thriving in the state of the art labs of EMU’s strong STEM programs.”
Among the guests of honor were President Emeritus Loren Swartzendruber, his wife, Pat, and their family. The couple were jointly honored with the renaming of the iconic S-106 lecture hall as “Swartendruber Hall.”
Along with new seating, lighting and upgraded technology for S-106, Suter West renovations included modernized classrooms, new laboratory space for EMU’s engineering program, upgrading of the discovery room and expanded displays from the D. Ralph Hostetter Natural History Collection, upgraded climate-control system and an improved sprinkler system.
The project’s donors and contributors are recognized in a special display at the building’s west entrance. Accompanying this recognition, Shisler offered special commendations to individuals “who have been a very special part of this remarkable journey”:
— Professor Daniel Suter, for whom the building is named, and his exemplary guidance over several decades enabled scores of EMU students to qualify for medical school with great success and global impact. His daughter, Jan Suter Showalter, and her husband, Dr. Sam Showalter, were in attendance;
–faculty involved in shaping EMU’s outstanding science programs having built upon the legacy of Daniel Suter and others of his era: professors Kenton Brubaker, Glen Kaufman, Galen Lehman, Joseph Mast, Clair Mellinger, Roman Miller, Millard Showalter, and John Horst;
— project leaders during both major phases Ed Lehman, Eldon Kurtz, Jack Rutt and Phil Martin.
After thanking the university for the honor and sharing a few anecdotes from his experiences in S-106, Swartzendruber offered praise for EMU’s “well-founded reputation across academic disciplines” and the dedication and commitment of its “extraordinary faculty members.”
The importance of science education, of teaching and research, is all the more apparent now, he said. “We will continue to educate future doctors, nurses, and other scientists. Our graduates will serve and lead with compassion and empathy. Some will lead in preparing for future pandemics. Others will partner with health educators and ethicists to address the complexities of distribution and access. Graduates of the engineering program will help solve some of the world’s most vexing problems such as climate change. We owe it to our grandchildren and their children.”