Ainlay Hall, the first phase of a $100 million project to create an Integrated Science and Engineering Complex, was formally dedicated Friday, Oct. 12, as part of Homecoming and Family Weekend.
Named in honor of Stephen Charles Ainlay and Judith Gardner Ainlay, Union’s most recent president and his wife, the striking new glass and steel building opened last month.
“You have no idea how many hours of thinking and planning went into this building.” said Stephen Ainlay, who returned to campus for the first time since stepping down in June after 12 years as Union’s president. “It didn’t just happen overnight.”
A key feature of the new building is the concept of science and engineering on display. Designed to showcase the extensive labs and high-level scientific instrumentation not typically found at a liberal arts college, the massive glass panels give students and visitors a clear view of the research taking place.
“It’s very exciting to have this state-of-the-art facility where not only can you see what we are doing, you can move from one space to another easily,” said Mary Carroll ‘86, the Dwane W. Crichton Professor of Chemistry.
Emmanuela Oppong ’19, a biomedical engineering major with a minor in global service, said the new space epitomizes Union’s commitment to the intersection of disciplines that she has enjoyed since arriving on campus.
“Union has created a platform for students to seamlessly flow through the humanities, arts, social sciences, sciences and engineering, as well as campus activities and community outreach,” said Oppong, who is originally from Ghana. “I can take music as a practicum with my engineering classes, tutor math at the Kenney Center and volunteer at Ellis through my intersectional health course.”
With Ainlay Hall, she said, “Union has created and continues to create a platform and atmosphere for intersection.”
Strom Thacker, the Stephen J. and Diane K. Ciesinski Dean of Faculty, thanked the faculty for their integral role in the building, from the planning phase to the construction phase. He said the new space will showcase the work faculty and students do, particularly with the high level of scientific instrumentation not found at a typical liberal arts college.
“Our students and faculty have access to some of the best cutting-edge technology out there but they have not had, until now, the building to match it.”
John E. Kelly III ’76, chair of the Board of Trustees, said the College is grateful for all the donors who contributed to the project. He lauded the building as a milestone in Union’s storied history.
“A fully integrated liberal arts and engineering curriculum is something Union is renowned for, but we are moving it forward with this new center,” he said. “This facility will have a revolutionary impact on our students, faculty and society.”
Charles Kirby of Einhorn Yaffee Prescott of Albany, the project’s architect, said the modern glass arc building is designed to represent the past while celebrating the future.
At times emotional, Stephen Ainlay touched on that history as he wrapped up his remarks.
“It’s hard to imagine that years ago, Judith and I sat together in a small high school in Indiana,” he said. “The thought that we would have a building named after us, surrounded by the likes of Steinmetz, Butterfield and Bailey, is unbelievable.”
Work has already begun on the next phase of the project, which includes the renovation of three sections of the existing S&E center by fall 2019. Two other sections will be demolished and replaced by an outdoor quad.
When finished, the 142,000-square-foot space will connect directly to the Wold Center, and Bailey, Butterfield and Steinmetz halls. New outdoor walkways, seating areas and expanded green space will improve foot traffic significantly within the integrated science and engineering complex and enhance the campus grounds.