Groundbreaking for New WSU Science Building Set for May 16

OGDEN, Utah – Utah Gov. Gary Herbert will join Weber State University President Charles A. Wight and other dignitaries for the groundbreaking of the new Tracy Hall Science Center on May 16 at noon at the Stewart Bell Tower Plaza.

In keeping with the spirit of science, and having a university president who loves chemistry, the groundbreaking promises excitement beyond shovel and dirt.

“WSU is committed to training the next generation of Utah’s scientists and health professionals, and this new facility will reflect that passion,” Wight said.

Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) graduates have increased by 50 percent at WSU over the past 10 years. Of those STEM graduates, 84 percent are employed full time within three months of graduation and earn an average salary of $44,613. Ninety-two percent are employed in Utah.

“It is well known that science, technology, engineering and mathematics are economic drivers,” said Dave Matty, dean of the College of Science. “As a matter of fact, business leaders in Utah have banded together to push for more STEM education in our schools. Now at Weber State, we will have a facility that will help us better equip students to meet the demands of industry and push
                                                                               Utah’s economy ahead.”                                                 

Nearly all WSU students will take classes in the Tracy Hall Science Center, either as science majors or to complete general education requirements.

Interior windows will offer a view into experiments conducted in research laboratories. The research and instructional labs will be housed in two laboratory towers with the classrooms and offices on an eastern wing. A large atrium will tie the laboratory towers and classroom wing together.

“The atrium will put science on display, which is a major theme for the building, and hopefully will pique interest in science as a career,” said Wight, who has a doctoral degree in chemistry.

“With this new building, some really amazing things are going to happen,” said Craig Oberg, a WSU microbiology professor who spent time in the current Science Lab Building as an undergraduate student in 1973. “Our students will be cross-pollinated by other disciplines. Weber State students are unbelievably creative and capable, and we’ll just see their creativity and ideas explode.”

Botany chair Barbara Wachocki said with room to grow, the College of Science will flourish just like the plants in the new botany greenhouse.

“The new science center is central to the growth of sciences at Weber State,” Wachocki said. “The building will be safe; it will be efficient. We will have open spaces. It will encourage students to talk among themselves in the different disciplines. Many of the real cutting-edge discoveries are being made at the borders between disciplines, and this building will facilitate that collaboration.”

The building will be named the Tracy Hall Science Center in honor of two local families that have enjoyed a long legacy with WSU.

The Tracy family settled in the Ogden area in 1851. They encouraged their children to become educated and use that education to serve others. Aaron Tracy served as one of the first WSU presidents from 1922-35.

The Hall family came to Ogden as railroad workers in 1892. Howard Hall married Florence Tracy in 1918, and their five sons greatly benefitted from their Weber State education. Their oldest son, Tracy, graduated from Ogden High and started attending Weber State in 1937 — a beneficiary of a work-for-tuition program the school offered. 

Tracy went on to become a scientist, and while working for the General Electric research labs was the first to invent a reproducible way to convert carbon into a man-made diamond.

Tracy, who passed away in 2008, is the uncle of WSU Board of Trustees Chair Alan Hall, who is also a WSU alumnus.

The current Science Lab building was dedicated in 1969 and has serious life-safety issues, including asbestos, seismic instability, a lack of fire suppression, low floor-to-floors heights and worn infrastructure that do not provide adequate ventilation for chemicals used for teaching and research. This facility will be demolished once programs have moved into the new Tracy Hall Science Center.

In 2013, the state allotted $3.5 million for the design phase of the project. That money, combined with the 2014 funding, will cover most of the anticipated $61,606,143 planning and building costs. An additional $12.3 million for equipment, technology and furnishings will come from generous donors and university funds.

Following the groundbreaking, Buildings 3 and 4 — which were constructed in 1954 — will be vacated and undergo asbestos abatement prior to demolition in mid-June, making room for the new building. Construction is anticipated to take two years, and the doors will open to students fall semester 2016.

Matty said the new Tracy Hall Science Center will benefit the entire state.

“Together, students and faculty will discover answers to the complex questions demanded by existing and emerging industries in Utah.”

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Allison Barlow Hess, Director of Public Relations
801-626-7948 •
Shane Farver, WSU executive communication coordinator