Science center for 21st century

Carroll County: New $13.5-million building upholds impressive legacy for Western Maryland College.

November 04, 1999

WESTERN Maryland College's new Science Center offers spectacular views from its glass-wall rear hallways, the inspiring vista of the Catoctin Mountains.

But the educational outlook for the private Westminster college is even more impressive after last month's dedication of the four-story, 50,000-square-foot academic building. The $13.4-million center houses 21st-century laboratories and space for student research at an institution long recognized for its undergraduate scientific instruction. The powerful electron microscope has moved out of the broom closet to its own room. The science classrooms combine lecture and laboratory space. Perhaps even the science workbenches installed more than 80 years ago at WMC may soon be retired.

The Science Center is attached by hallways to the longtime science buildings, Lewis Hall built in 1914 and a 1966 addition. The three connected structures offer a time line of science school architecture in this century.

Western Maryland College offered science courses shortly after its opening in 1866. WMC was among the first to tailor its curriculum to admission requirements of the Johns Hopkins Medical School that opened in 1894.

Scientific instruction has come a long way since the college's first science professor, William Zimmerman, was fired for teaching the heretical theory of evolution advanced by a British scientist named Charles Darwin. The theory was considered anathema to the Methodist Church that founded the college.

The WMC Science Center represents the most expensive capital project undertaken by the 1,200-student institution. The state of Maryland contributed $3.5 million; the rest was raised or pledged by the college. It's an investment in science and science teaching that will pay large dividends.

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