WILKES-BARRE — Wilkes University staff and students Friday eagerly showed off the new $35 million Lawrence and Sally Cohen Science Center, where a dedication ceremony that included university officials and the Cohens was held in the afternoon.
Built in the heart of the school’s downtown campus, the four-story building is named after the Benco Dental chairman and his wife. The Cohen family donated $2.5 million toward construction, a gift Wilkes President Patrick Leahy said was the largest individual cash donation in the university’s 79-year history.
Lawrence Cohen is a 1957 Wilkes graduate and a former Wilkes trustee of 14 years.
The 72,500-square-foot building extends from South River Street into the Fenner Quadrangle at the center of campus, arcing around the Stark Learning Center in a J shape.
It houses the biology and health sciences, chemistry and biochemistry, and environmental engineering and earth sciences departments. The third floor will be used by interdisciplinary labs where students and faculty from different departments will perform research collaboratively.
The enrollment in the three departments housed in the Cohen Science Center is about 260 students. Most Wilkes students will take at least one class in the building during their academic careers.
During a tour of the center, students spoke giddily about the newest technologies now available to them and the ability to have a building to call their own.
Kyla Halsor, a senior biology major from Harveys Lake, walked through a sunlit fourth floor hallway and said when she walks into her new home, “I feel more motivated.”
She said while Stark Learning Center classrooms and labs had served their purpose, “they were outdated compared to this.” Halsor said the Cohen Science Center “is new and modern and much more appealing to high schoolers when they come to visit campus.”
Melanie Wade, Wilkes’ vice president for enrollment, said that “when choosing a school, students look for the whole package: high-quality academics as well as an attractive physical environment in which they can have pride. The Cohen Science Center will enhance our ability to recruit new students in the sciences. In fact, we’ve already seen an increase in enrollment in our science programs with its opening.”
For the current students that were on campus when ground was broken for the project and able to watch the building rise from the dirt, the wait was worth it.
“This is great,” said Ryan Rzucldlo, a junior environmental engineering major from Elkton, Md. His favorite part is the rooftop, with its gardens, meteorology station and more.
“It’s pretty much a lab on the roof,” he said, adding that the entire building is a classroom for students interested in learning about the design and engineering aspects of a modern, green building.
“The science building marries the high-quality research work already conducted by our students with an impressive cutting-edge physical space,” said Wade.