Benedictine College Breaks Ground on New Science and Engineering Building

Renovation and Expansion of Westerman Hall is Underway

Published: Friday, October 28, 2016

In 1916, Benedictine College offered its first science degrees. Today, 100 years later, the college broke ground on the renovation and expansion of Westerman Hall, the science and engineering building. Part of the Century of Science celebration at the school, the $25 million venture will be the largest capital project Benedictine has ever undertaken.

“The best way to honor a century of science at Benedictine College is to prepare ourselves for the next century of science,” said the college’s president, Stephen D. Minnis.

Over the years, Benedictine College has become known for its science programs, winning the prestigious Heuer Award and producing a biology graduate, Wangari Maathai, who would go on to win the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize. From the beginning, the Catholic college aimed for the highest possible standards in the sciences, sending monks and sisters to the best universities and building the best facilities to offer students the best opportunities. With the renovation of 60,000 square feet of space in Westerman Hall and the addition of 40,000 square feet onto the south side of the building, Benedictine College is striving to achieve its science vision to be the Catholic, liberal arts college that educates aspiring engineers, doctors, scientists, and health care professionals for the 21st century.

“We have a dream…a vision to build one of the great Catholic colleges in America. To strive for greatness, one of America’s great Catholic colleges must be dedicated to the sciences,” Minnis said.  “To achieve this, we must dare, we must dare to reach for greatness and move forward with this building. We cannot wait.”

Physics professor Dr. Doug Brothers, who has taught at Benedictine College since 1968, is in a position to know a great deal about the history of science at the institution.  He is a past winner of the Educator of Year Award, has received numerous National Science Foundation grants, served as department chair and even served as Interim Dean of the College.

He said the future of Benedictine College science will be shaped by the new science and engineering building.

“Our greatest needs revolve around having modern laboratory space and facilities and maintaining and upgrading our laboratory equipment to provide essential experiences for our students to pursue their research interests, to remain active in their fields, and to mentor new generations of scientists,” said Dr. Brothers.

Benedictine College is one of the smallest colleges in America—and one of only 16 Catholic universities—to have an engineering program.  Engineering is quickly becoming one of the largest departments at the college with a growth vision of 250 students in the program and it is currently in space that would accommodate about 50-75 students.

“We currently house our engineering faculty and a lab in trailers,” Minnis said. “Our science and engineering facility is not able to accommodate the growing engineering program let alone the burgeoning college.  In addition to space issues, Westerman Hall needs to be updated in order for it to retain the flexibility that ever-changing sciences require.”

Although it will be done in stages, the overall project is scheduled to take approximately two years to complete.

Founded in 1858, Benedictine College is a Catholic, Benedictine, residential, liberal arts college located on the bluffs above the Missouri River in Atchison, Kansas.  The school is proud to have been named one of America’s Best Colleges by U.S. News & World Report as well as one of the top Catholic colleges in the nation by First Things magazine and the Newman Guide.  It prides itself on outstanding academics, extraordinary faith life, strong athletic programs, and an exceptional sense of community and belonging.  It has a mission to educate men and women within a community of faith and scholarship.