Story and photos by Stephen Kiltonic
CHICOPEE – Students enrolled in Our Lady of the Elms College’s nursing, science and technology programs, were ushered into a new era on campus Oct. 18 with the formal dedication of the new state-of-the-art Center for Natural and Health Sciences (CNHS) building here.
The ceremony, held before nearly 300 people outside in the Keating Quadrangle on campus, included a ribbon cutting a blessing of the five-story, 22,000-square-foot building by Springfield Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell, and remarks by Elms College President Sister Mary Reap, of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
“It’s a dream come true for people on this campus,” said Sister Reap. “This effort started many years ago. For one reason or another, it just couldn’t happen at that time. Suddenly, it all became very possible by wonderful people who stepped up. We’re delighted,” said Sister Reap, who also praised the Sisters of St. Joseph for all their contributions made throughout their 86-year history at the Elms.
Also participating in the ceremonies were Sister of St. Joseph Maxyne Schneider, president of the Sisters of St. Joseph, Walter Breau, vice president of academic affairs, Paul Stelzer, vice chair of the board of trustees; and Cynthia and William Lyons III, CNHS campaign committee co-chairs and board of trustee members.
Located adjacent to Berchmans Hall, the center will provide resources for students studying science, technology, mathematics and nursing allowing for interdisciplinary opportunities in the classroom, in research, and in operating modern analytical instrumentation.
When the facility opens in January 2014, students will be able to utilize computer information technology laboratories, biology and chemistry laboratories, state-of-the-art lecture halls, and a nursing skills and simulation lab that will create an innovative environment simulating clinical and hospital settings.
“Bringing the nursing faculty, the biology, the chemistry, the technology faculty together means they (students) will learn in this building the way that they will work once they leave here,” said Brueau. “So, we’re giving them a competitive advantage.”
Sister Schneider, who once served as the chair of Elms’ chemistry department, said the center will make the Elms more competitive in the sciences discipline. “It’s going to offer new opportunities for the Elms to really seek serious science students,” she said.
“Even though very fine science could be done in the old laboratories, the attractiveness wasn’t there.” She said that the old laboratories, in many cases, didn’t look as modern as many high schools labs that students had been used to. “It’s easy to judge just on the surface of things,” added Sister Schneider. “Now, we have the attractiveness to add to the quality.”
During the dedication, Sr. Mary Lou Wright, professor of biology who taught at the Elms for nearly 50 years, was presented with the Presidential Medallion. Additionally, Ellen Faszewski, Ph.D., chair and associate professor of math and science at Wheelock College and a member of the Elms Class of 1991, was presented with the Sr. Margaret James McGrath Distinguished Alumni Award.
In her talk, Faszewski praised the Elms faculty and, in particular, Sisters McGrath and Wright. “It was through their mentoring, through their research, through the curriculum, through the support of Elms College and the community that I was able to find my way and become what I am today,” said Faszewski. “This building, paired with faculty, is going to take Elms College to the next level in the field of science, nursing and education.”
After the dedication, Bishop McDonnell walked the five floors of the facility and blessed the various lecture rooms, labs and the restored stained glass windows from the former St. Joseph Church in Springfield that have a new home in the center. An informal reception and tours of the facility were also held.
For more on this story, tune into an upcoming edition of “Real to Reel,” the Diocese of Springfield’s television newsmagazine that airs Saturday evenings at 7 on WWLP-22NEWS.