Before attendees learned what the banners signified, the trombone choir under the direction of Associate Professor of Music Paul Niemisto provided a prelude to the event. In his invocation immediately following, College Pastor Bruce Benson told the crowd that "you are all to be commended for being out here in the cold, but them [trombone choir] especially." Benson then called the Science Complex "a place in which students will grow in understanding and wisdom."
President David R. Anderson '74 gave the first remarks, bidding the attendees "a warm welcome on a cold afternoon." The new Science Complex, he said, will dramatically change the shape of campus and daily movements on campus, although it will nestle among the historic buildings. "Nevertheless," he said, "it will be a big building. The center of campus will thus shift to the south and east." He detailed part of the construction plans, which call for removing all the asphalt currently between Holland Hall and Old Main, calling it a "sweep of green lawn" that will answer Mellby lawn.
"Frisbee will be played here," he said, "and that is a good thing." Anderson also said that the new building will be constructed using old principles: faculty and student decisions about all aspects of the Complex's construction have been respected.
"It will serve for decades," he said, "and it will serve us well."
Capital funding campaign co-chair Ruth Kelly Hustad '55 spoke next, calling the occasion "truly a day beyond our imagination," in reference to the Science Complex campaigns tagline "Beyond Imagination: The St. Olaf Campaign for the Future of Math and Science." Hustad told the crowd that over $20 million of the projected $35 million cost has already been raised, attributing the Complex's progress to the Board of Regents identifying it as the college's "top strategic priority" and giving the Complex "100 percent" support: Over $12 million comes from the Board itself.
"As we celebrate today," she said, "we know that St. Olaf will continue to excel," detailing a vision of the college as having first-class faculty in state-of-the-art facilities.
Professor of Biology David Van Wylen '80 took the podium to represent the math and science faculty, saying that they were immensely satisfied but also feeling a certain amount of disbelief after 15 years of imagining. He also explained that the Seven I's express the design teams programmatic vision for the Complex, saying that the Complex will transform appearances, but will not change fundamental practices.
"Bring on the shovels," he said, "we are so ready."
Kristen Roys '07 spoke last, representing the student members of the design team, telling the attendees that the college has listened to what students want and need in a science complex and that the building will be equal in strength, integrity, and innovation to the departments it will house.
After Roys spoke the crowd sang two verses of "Earth and All Stars" mentioning test tubes and "loud pounding hammers" and the groundbreakers took their places, two to a shovel, around a pile of dirt that had been put down for the occasion. Benson explained that when the ground gets cold and hard it takes two people to do this, saying that Scripture tells us there is a time to build and a time to tear down, and both have arrived together.
Hustad and her fellow campaign co-chair Regent John Benson, design team members Roys and Ian Campbell '07, Anderson and Board of Regents Chair O. Jay Tomson '58, Provost James May and Assistant Provost Arnie Ostebee '72, Assistant Vice President for Facilities Pete Sandberg and Northfield Mayor Lee Lansing and Associate Dean for the Faculty of Natural Sciences and Mathematics Dave Van Wylen '80 and design team member Ian Vaagenes '07 each shared a shovel. As they dug into the dirt, Benson said that the college's motto now becomes this project's motto: Fram, fram!
After singing the college song, a benediction by Benson in which he told the trombones that "we hope your lips didn't freeze" and a postlude by the Trombone Choir, attendees repaired to the Science Center lobby for hot drinks and refreshments provided by Bon Appetit, including a periodic table of the elements made out of cookies, as well as video renderings of how the Complex will look from various views around the Hill. Design team member Campbell said of the 7 a.m. meetings that his involvement with the complex were painful, but worth it to be able to provide student input.
The goal is to build it all at once, Anderson said of the fundraising campaign for the Complex after the ceremony. The campaign will have $22 million by January 2007, and Anderson hopes to raise $35 million by July 1, to save $1.5 million in construction costs but also to minimize disruption to students and enable the Complex to be used as intended as soon as possible. "It's a stretch, but I think we can do it."