CRYSTAL LAKE – After many long discussions and meetings over the past several years, the McHenry County College Board of Trustees came to the conclusion that the college’s existing science facilities were outdated and students needed something better.
Looking to address students’ needs and allow them to work in a facility that will successfully prepare them for the future, construction is finally ready to begin for the Liebman Science Center.
The two-story, state-of-the-art science learning center will be about 22,000 square feet in space. The Liebman Science Center – which will be connected by a corridor to the north of Building E – will help lead the way for careers in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.
A groundbreaking ceremony for the Liebman Science Center was held Monday morning outside MCC’s Building E. Of those in attendance for the momentous event was MCC President Clint Gabbard.
“We are redefining the future as we create new learning labs for thousands of brilliant students to come from our community,” Gabbard said.
Gabbard thanked the community college’s board members for getting this project to where it is today.
“There’s not been a lot of magic or mystery to the creation of this science center today. Instead, it’s the mundane, dedicated, elected board members who have worked with a visionary former president [Vicky Smith] here to identify, define and refine, and then redefine, a construction project that would fulfill the needs of tomorrow’s students,” Gabbard said.
Gabbard and Rep. Randy Hultgren, R-Plano, also acknowledged Charles Liebman and his family for their generous $5 million donation toward the center.
“So oftentimes it takes that of someone or a family stepping up and saying, ‘This is important. We want to help get this done,’ ” Hultgren said. “But it’s only through a community that we actually see those next steps and are starting to see this momentum.”
The building will include a cadaver lab, student resource lab, lecture hall, planetarium and two prep rooms. It will support both existing science and health care programs, including biology, chemistry, earth science, physics, nursing, health information technology and patient care technician. It also can be used to support future programs.
Earth science instructor Ted Erski said the new space will allow for planetarium shows that will be open to the public, and he’s planning opportunities for local high school and grade school students to also use the space.
“This is the place where we gather for training exercises, lectures, political and environmental discussions and educational partnerships with local governments and businesses,” Erski said. “The Liebman Science Center will grow these relationships and inspire new ones. Science teachers throughout the district will have new and innovative programs that will inspire their own STEM students all the way from kindergarten through high school.”
The center will be paid for by college funds, students fees and funds raised through the capital campaign. The project is estimated to cost about $16.8 million.
“We’re standing on this spot that a short time from now will stand a hub for learning and for serving students and community members. And we can only dream of what ideas might germinate from this spot in the coming years,” MCC Board Chairman Chris Jenner said.
“We finally got it scaled down to a size and funding model that everyone agreed on,” Jenner said. “This is taxpayer-friendly, because the bulk of the funding for this is student infrastructure fees and second is donations. The taxpayer portion is really a small portion of the funding.”
Construction will start this summer and is expected to be finished and open in fall 2018.
“The Liebman Science Center is going to give more opportunities for students to grow, to learn and the ability to succeed and have a future in the way that they never did before,” MCC student Madison Patenaude said. “They’ll be given the tools and the resources needed to have a better future.”
Patenaude, who is expecting to graduate from MCC with an associate’s degree in science in the summer, said she plans to visit the new center when it’s completed.
“Although I won’t be here to fully benefit from this exceptional resource when it is finished, I am overjoyed to be able to leave knowing that students will be flourishing here at the Liebman Science Center,” Patenaude said.