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ISSUE 120 VOL 10 PUBLISHED 12/6/2006

Science Complex inspires

By Andrea Horbinski
Staff Writer

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

I am trying to recall the last time I stood outside in weather as cold as last Friday afternoon for such an extended period of time, and after three days I am still coming up blank. It seemed as if the sky clouded over especially for the Science Complex groundbreaking, and by the time all was finished my fingers felt half-frozen, despite my gloves, from taking notes. But on the other hand, as cold as we all felt and as long as the groundbreaking ceremony seemed, it was really quite short compared with the 15 years St. Olaf has spent talking about a new Science Complex.

One of the most amusing aspects of the groundbreaking, really, was the way in which certain speakers at the ceremony seemed willing to forget just how long the college has been dreaming and debating about a new science building.

I don'’t mean to cast aspersions on anyone'’s sincerity or dedication, but I’'m sure I wasn'’t the only one who couldn'’t help but smile when campaign co-chair Ruth Kelly Hustad ’'55 declared the Science Complex “on schedule.” Certainly it'’s on its most recent schedule, but equally certainly, when a small group of math and science professors met in the Cage in 1991 and got to talking about how cool a new science building would be, they didn’'t expect they would have to wait five years into the new millennium just to see the groundbreaking. Professor David Van Wylen '’80 and Kristen Roys ’'07 hit a welcome note of reality in that regard when each referred to the delays in the Complex’'s development. As a senior I especially appreciated Roys mentioning what my class was told when we arrived on campus, namely that we'’d be using the new science building by the fall of our senior year –- - right about now, actually.

Still, despite the delays and the frigid temperatures, it was impossible not to feel inspired standing under the overcast skies listening to the groundbreaking’'s speakers. It was equally impossible not to feel bad for the banner bearers, many of whom did not appear to have anticipated standing still in one place for as long as they did in the cold, or not to feel even worse for the members of the trombone choir. How they managed to keep in tune with themselves, or to prevent their lips from freezing onto their mouthpieces, I will never understand, but they performed like heroes.

Although I haven'’t taken a course in the current Science Center since my freshman year, and the only reason I go there now is for Anime Club, the vision of St. Olaf that the groundbreaking speakers painted was as stirring as it seemed, at last, tantalizingly close.

Hearing President Anderson enthuse about pairing a new “sweep” of lawn from Holland to Old Main with the current “sweep” of Mellby Lawn, listening to Hustad describe how the Science Complex will cement St. Olaf'’s place at the forefront of liberal arts schools with strong science credentials and hearing Van Wylen and Roys list the new building’'s features, including a roof with grass on it (perfect for holding class on), an underground tunnel between the Complex and the refurbished Old Music Building, and lots of group study spaces and sunlight-filled halls, I began to understand the enthusiasm my science-major friends have expressed since our arrival, and watching video renderings of the Complex'’s beautiful final appearance only confirmed my feelings.

A new Science Complex, no matter how expensive, high-tech or well-designed, would be useless if it weren’'t a Science Complex at St. Olaf: By providing our math and science departments with modern facilities that are as top-notch as they are, we will enable them to better realize their full potential. Their increased excellence will enrich the entire college community in turn.

I was quite happy that I managed to score one of the coveted “periodic table of the elements” cookies, which Bon Appétit made with such skill and care, at the reception afterward, though not quite as happy as I was to finally be someplace that was warm. When I looked up the elemental symbol on my cookie afterward I was pleased to discover that it was element number 61, promethium. It would be silly to make my cookie a symbol of the groundbreaking or of the Science Complex as a whole, but it seemed appropriate on such a cold day that that cookie should recall the god who brought fire to humans, the same fire which surely shone in the hearts of all who sang “Fram, Fram” with such tuneful gusto on Friday.

Opinions Editor Andrea Horbinski is a senior from Marlton, N.J. She majors in classics and in Asian studies with a concentration in Japan studies.

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