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November 12, 2008
By Jane Tors
A $2 million lead gift from the Nell J. Redfield Foundation was integral in allowing construction of a 500-seat auditorium as part of the University of Nevada, Reno’s new Davidson Mathematics and Science Center. The Nell J. Redfield Foundation Auditorium will offer interactive technology and greatly enhance the University’s classroom capacity.
In addition to the Redfield gift, gifts totaling nearly $1 million have been pledged to the auditorium project by other donors including the E.L. Cord Foundation, T.J. and Debbie Day, the Thomas P. and Thelma B. Hart Foundation, the Charles and Ruth Hopping Charitable Foundation and the Robert S. and Dorothy J. Keyser Foundation.
“The importance of the generosity of these gifts and the availability of an auditorium, fully equipped to support teaching, cannot be overemphasized,” said University President Milt Glick.
“This auditorium will be the exemplar classroom on the campus,” he added. “Lecture-style classes, taught by faculty who specialize in this teaching format, are part of the University experience. The auditorium will be equipped with technology that will allow large classes to function more like smaller classes. It will maximize learning and increase our overall classroom capacity.”
When the Davidson Mathematics and Science Center opens in August 2010, the 105,000-square-foot, $50 million building will represent the first new capital project for the natural sciences for the campus in nearly 40 years. Construction began this spring and a “topping-off” ceremony on Nov. 5 celebrated completion of the building’s steel frame. Hosted by the PENTA Building Group, contractor for the project, the industry tradition involved construction workers signing the last steel beam and hoisting it into place. An American flag and evergreen tree were placed on the beam to symbolize the building project has proceeded well, without injury, and as good luck for occupants of the building.
“We are truly delighted to be a part of this,” said Jerry Smith, Redfield Foundation director, of the overall project. “We are excited about the strides the University has recently made, and we want to see it continue. At a time when state funding is down, we have to go about doing what we can to support higher education.”
Although always part of the plan, construction of the auditorium was not a sure thing. The priority to include the large classroom factored into the Redfield Foundation’s decision to support the project at this time.
“To build an auditorium like this down the line would cost a lot more money,” said Jeane Jones, also a Redfield Foundation director.
Because science and math instruction is part of the University’s core curriculum, campus officials estimate that 80 percent of the student body will have at least one class in the Mathematics and Science Center. The building will enhance experiential learning – especially for undergraduate students – with 27 modern teaching laboratories, each with the capacity for 20 to 24 students, and four large classrooms, each with the capacity for 75 students.
“It’s going to be a place where students will learn in the best classrooms possible, from great faculty who will encourage participation of undergraduates in research and scholarship — a definite competitive advantage for our university,” said Jeff Thompson, dean of the College of Science.
The center will feature enhanced environment controls and space for culture preparation in eight biological science laboratories, increased glass-hood space for improved observation and greater control over experiments in seven general chemistry laboratories, and a 50-seat computational classroom — the largest on campus — to teach students the use of software for data analysis and visualization.
The Davidson Mathematics and Science Center is named for educational innovators and founders of the Davidson Academy of Nevada, Jan and Bob Davidson, whose $16 million gift to the University included an $11 million investment in the center. The Davidson Academy, based at the University’s Jot Travis Building, is the country’s only free, public, specialized school for exceptionally gifted middle and high school students on a college campus.