Science Facilities Project Celebration & Dedication



Russell Science Center Dedication

October 25, 2019 was a historic day on campus as we celebrated the completion of the Science Facilities Project and dedicated the new Russell Science Center, renovated West Science Hall, and renovated portions of Law Hall. Here is a link to all of the photos taken that day. 


R. Joseph Dieker
Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College


Gilda Vinzulis Boyer ’84
Chair, Cornell College Board of Trustees

Jean Russell ’65

Cynthia Strong
William Deskin Professor of Chemistry


Jonathan Brand


Rev. Dr. Catherine Quehl-Engel ’89
College Chaplain





“It is an exciting day at Cornell College as we celebrate the completion of our new and renovated facilities for the sciences. Welcome to all of you!

“The science facilities project, one of the largest in the College’s history, took over four-years from initial planning to completion and involved many individuals both from our campus community and partner organizations. We are here today to see the fruits of this labor in the new Russell Science Center, home to our programs in chemistry and biology; the newly renovated West Science Hall, now home to our programs in computer science, mathematics and statistics, and physics and engineering; and the repurposed Law Hall, home to our programs in kinesiology and psychology. 

“The project started with the Russell Science Center with the following vision:  We wanted a building that would foster engaged learning in the sciences, we wanted a building that would be adaptable for the future, we wanted a building that would be unique in its design, and we wanted a building that would be a visual emblem for the integration of science and the liberal arts. Our work on West Science Hall was focused on a complete rejuvenation and updating of the building so that we would have wonderful office, classroom, lab, and student gathering places. Finally, Law Hall was repurposed for enhanced learning and lab spaces for two of our largest programs on campus. I am happy to report that we now have beautiful and state-of-the-art spaces for 21st century teaching and learning in the sciences.

“Of course, this project would not be possible without the combined efforts of a lot of people including our fundraisers, our generous donors, our faculty and staff in the sciences, and our partner organizations; BWBR Architects and Mortenson Construction. In just a few minutes, Gilda Boyer, our Board Chair, will talk more about our wonderful donors for the project. However, I do want to recognize some of the key individuals in the actual design and construction of these facilities, realizing that we don’t have time for me to recognize all involved individually. From BWBR: Dan Hottinger, Brian Lapham, Stefanie McDaniel, and Craig Peterson. From Mortenson Construction:  Randy Clarahan, Brian Kacmarynski, Jason Bersch, Kim Zwald, and Kate Zihlman. And from our campus, our project manager Cari Morgan, all of our faculty, lab instructors, and staff in the various disciplines of the sciences, and especially Professors Kara Beauchamp and Jeff Cardon who served with Kay Langseth and me on the steering committee for the project.

“As we get on with the festivities, I am pleased to introduce Gilda Boyer.

Gilda Vinzulis Boyer is a member of the Class of 1984, earning a bachelor’s degree in political science and economics. After Cornell she attended the University of Iowa Law School and graduated with honors in 1991. Gilda retired in 2008 as a senior member of the law firm Shuttleworth and Ingersoll in Cedar Rapids. She has served on and chaired numerous community boards, and continues with her spouse, Barry Boyer ’84, to be involved in promoting community philanthropy, primarily in the area of entrepreneurship. Gilda has been a member of the Cornell Board of Trustees since 2007 and Board Chair since 2017. We are grateful for your leadership, Gilda. Please join me in welcoming Gilda Boyer.”



“Thank you, Joe. Good afternoon. 

“I want to take just a moment to pay tribute to a few special people. It is unfortunate that during the course of this wonderful project we experienced some profound losses among our donors, including Bob Childers, husband of Jean Russell, who passed away unexpectedly at the end of July, and Professor Emeritus of Chemistry Bill Deskin and his wife Ruth, who passed away 4 months apart last fall. Professor Deskin was a teacher and mentor to many who are here. We are glad that all of them were able to see the building to its completion.

“William Haffke Jr., class of 1965, was a member of the Cornell Board of Trustees for just a short time before his untimely death. Bill’s wife, Bunny, and his three children — Rob, Chris, and Karen, and his son-in-law Tom are with us today.

“Life Trustee Peter Paul Luce passed away in Sept. 2018. Peter’s daughter Lynn Luce Kitt, Cornell class of 1991, her husband Lance, and their children, Peter and Ella, are here from Colorado. Thank you for being here with us today to commemorate the spaces named in your loved ones honor.

“We certainly wouldn’t be here today without the profound generosity of so many alumni and friends. We thank all of you for your support of this important project for our campus.

"I would like to especially recognize the key leadership contributors and have them stand — Jean Russell, Richard and Norma Small, Jerry and Carole Ringer, and Jack Evans from The Hall-Perrine Foundation. All have made a huge difference in funding the Science Facilities Project, but all have also made significant impact across this campus for many, many years. Thank you for your continued generous support of Cornell.

“Collectively, we have made this dream a reality. Setting up the future and the impact it will have for the students of Cornell. We’re delighted with the result and I hope you are too.

“At this time it gives me great pleasure to introduce Jean Russell, the namesake of this beautiful building that stands before us.”



“Jean Russell graduated from Cornell in 1965 with a bachelor’s degree in biology and a minor in chemistry. She earned her Ph.D. in biology from Rice University in 1971. From then until 1993, she worked at Washington University in St. Louis, teaching and researching. She contributed significant work to bone and calcium research and was able to extend many of the medical principles concerning growth and repair in the skeleton. In 2008, she signed an agreement for a $2 million planned gift to the college, and in 2012 she chose to use the estate gift from her father to support the Thomas Commons renovation project. In February 2008, Jean was elected to the college’s board of trustees. In 2017 Jean gave the largest single cash gift in Cornell’s history for the Science Facilities Project — $20 million. That gift really propelled the Science Facilities Project forward, accelerating the fundraising and we were able to hit our leadership fundraising goal of $32 million in under two years. Jean, we simply would not be here today without you. Jean, if you would come forward.”



JOE DIEKER: Thank you, Jean.

“It is now my pleasure to introduce a member of our faculty who is here to represent all of our faculty teaching and mentoring students in the Russell Science Center. Cindy Strong is the William Deskin Professor of Chemistry and has been on our faculty since 1989. She holds a BA in chemistry, with a biology minor, from Whitman College and a PhD in chemistry from Caltech. Cindy is known across our campus as a fine teacher, advisor, and engaged member of the college community. Please welcome Professor Strong to the podium.”


“I have the privilege of speaking on behalf of the faculty today to express our deep and lasting gratitude to the people who made the science facilities project possible. To Dr. Jean Russell  for her incredible gift, to all of the donors at every level, to President Brand, to Pam Gerard and the entire development team, we say thank you for changing the future of science education at Cornell. 

“From the classrooms and labs that are designed specifically for the way we teach on the block plan, to the open spaces for gathering and studying, our work has been transformed. The project is also transforming the way students from all across campus learn, as they take advantage of these new state-of-the-art resources and facilities.  

“In anticipation of today, I asked faculty in the science and math departments about their favorite improvements, and the enthusiastic and grateful responses came pouring in.  

“In computer science, larger classrooms with a new furniture layout have increased the students’ ability to work in small teams, and large video monitors on the walls allow small groups of students to share their code. 

“In organismal biology, we now have a room designed for using aquariums for classes and research, with floor drains and raised edges on countertops to control spills.

“In the organic/analytical lab, each student has space in a fume hood, providing for better safety and allowing more flexibility in experiments. 

“The natural light and open space in the Russell Science Center labs creates a more relaxed atmosphere, even when students are stressed about the bacteria they’re trying to grow or the organic compound they’re trying to make.

“We have shared research spaces In molecular and cellular biology and in chemistry, where students and faculty can work together and share ideas. We see the potential for new collaborations and a real learning community based on enhanced relationships between mentors and peers.  

“With classrooms adjacent to our labs, faculty and students can transition back and forth throughout our class time. Students no longer sit on the floor in crowded hallways trying to work on their lab data.  

“In Law Hall, our growing kinesiology program has new lab spaces and new equipment to facilitate their classes and research.  

“In West Science, highly visible fabrication space, new equipment, and small project rooms are enhancing our physics and engineering programs.  

“When students and faculty want to relax for a few minutes, we can enjoy beautiful views of the campus and the river valley.

“And perhaps most importantly, we have open spaces with abundant natural light, where students can gather to study or relax near their classrooms, labs, and faculty offices. There are small study rooms for an individual or a small group, large spaces for spreading out or working closely together, tables to gather around and collaborate, and white boards and writable walls to cover with equations, diagrams, and reaction mechanisms. It has been such a pleasure to watch our students occupy these spaces and make them their own.

“All of these amazing spaces allow us to be more effective teachers and to better prepare our students for their work after Cornell — not only the students who are science majors but the students in every major who take classes in math and science. We are thrilled to see students from all disciplines using the inviting new study spaces and enjoying the beautiful views. The project has given us a space that we can be proud to show to prospective students and their families.

“As the science facilities project is dedicated, we rededicate ourselves to carrying out science and math education at Cornell, in the tradition of the faculty members who inspired so many of these donations — people like Addison Ault, Truman Jordan, Paul Christiansen, David Lyon, T. Edwin Rogers, and William Deskin. We will go forward in their tradition, inspired and energized by these beautiful buildings and by your generosity. Thank you.”



“Thank you, Cindy. Cornell’s reputation for providing a superior education in the sciences goes back decades. Our dedicated faculty, like Professor Strong; our small class sizes; and the opportunities available to students so that they can conduct independent research have provided the framework for this success. No doubt, our science faculty and students achieved powerful results all while working in facilities that had become inadequate — outgrowing classroom and laboratory space that West Science provided. In addition, our rapidly growing Kinesiology program, our new Engineering program, and our overall enrollment growth plans required that we add to, and reconfigure, our science spaces.

“Cornell’s science students excel as a group, which explains why they are routinely accepted into top graduate and professional programs, and build successful careers in science, healthcare, and technology, among other fields. The new and renovated spaces, made possible through the Science Facilities Project, now provide the spaces our student and faculty needed to reach even higher. In addition, these facilities now present to prospective students and their families an accurate picture of the quality of the science education that Cornell provides. The Science Facilities Project holds the utmost importance for Cornell’s future as we recruit and educate a growing number of students who wish to work with exceptional faculty and staff in exceptional spaces at an exceptional school. Whatever your role, we can’t thank you enough for making this possible.

“At this time I’d like to ask Jean Russell, Jerry & Carole Ringer, Richard & Norma Small, and Jack Evans to come forward to assist in the dedication of the Russell Science Center.

Jonathan at microphone asks Jean Russell, Jerry & Carole Ringer, Richard & Norma Small, and Jack Evans to come forward and hold the ends of the inflated DNA ribbon.”



“This building allows Cornell—specifically the sciences—to be “Greater Than” it has ever been before—for our students to have experiences and achievements that are even greater than past ones. Thank you to everyone who made this project possible, and, of course, in particular dear Jean Russell. Today, on this 25th Day of October 2019, we officially dedicate the Russell Science Center. 

DNA ribbon is pulled apart. Applause. 


Rev. Dr. Catherine Quehl-Engel ’89