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St. Vincent College breaks ground on $4.5M science hall

Jeff Himler
| Wednesday, April 20, 2016, 11:00 p.m.
Archabbot Douglas R. Nowicki, O.S.B. blesses the shovels and ground during a groundbreaking ceremony for the future James F. Will Engineering and Biomedical Sciences Hall at St. Vincent College on Wednesday, April 20, 2016.
Evan R. Sanders | Tribune-Review
Archabbot Douglas R. Nowicki, O.S.B. blesses the shovels and ground during a groundbreaking ceremony for the future James F. Will Engineering and Biomedical Sciences Hall at St. Vincent College on Wednesday, April 20, 2016.
Jim Will (center) pauses a moment after a ceremonial groundbreaking photo was taken for the future James F. Will Engineering and Biomedical Sciences Hall at St. Vincent College on Wednesday, April 20, 2016.
Evan R. Sanders | Tribune-Review
Jim Will (center) pauses a moment after a ceremonial groundbreaking photo was taken for the future James F. Will Engineering and Biomedical Sciences Hall at St. Vincent College on Wednesday, April 20, 2016.
Brother Albert Ghar, O.S.B., watches the groundbreaking ceremony for the future James F. Will Engineering and Biomedical Sciences Hall from outside his biology classroom at St. Vincent College on Wednesday, April 20, 2016.
Evan R. Sanders | Tribune-Review
Brother Albert Ghar, O.S.B., watches the groundbreaking ceremony for the future James F. Will Engineering and Biomedical Sciences Hall from outside his biology classroom at St. Vincent College on Wednesday, April 20, 2016.
Brother Norman Hipps, O.S.B, speaks to those in attendance during a groundbreaking ceremony for the future James F. Will Engineering and Biomedical Sciences Hall at St. Vincent College on Wednesday, April 20, 2016.
Evan R. Sanders | Tribune-Review
Brother Norman Hipps, O.S.B, speaks to those in attendance during a groundbreaking ceremony for the future James F. Will Engineering and Biomedical Sciences Hall at St. Vincent College on Wednesday, April 20, 2016.

St. Vincent College officials on Wednesday ceremonially broke ground for a two-story expansion of the Sis and Herman Dupre Science Pavilion that is meant to support growth of biomedical sciences and engineering programs.

The $4.5 million James F. Will Engineering and Biomedical Sciences Hall will be on the west side of the science pavilion on the college campus near Latrobe and is expected to be complete by the summer of 2017.

“St. Vincent is targeting the academic fields of biomedical sciences and engineering for future growth and opportunity,” said Brother Norman W. Hipps, college president. He explained the new building will offer space for students and faculty in an engineering science degree program and in an integrated science major with an allied health concentration.

Hipps said enough has changed in the three years since the Dupre Pavilion was dedicated to warrant the expansion. He noted that 40 percent of St. Vincent freshmen are interested in science- and math-related fields and that enrollment in engineering studies has doubled, from 35 to 70 students, since a four-year engineering science major was introduced just a few years ago.

The 11,260-square-foot building will feature brick veneer to match the existing pavilion facade. A human anatomy laboratory will be the focus of the first floor and will have room for up to six surgical stations in a simulated operating environment. A teaching station will be equipped with cameras and monitors.

In addition to serving the college's undergraduate programs, the lab will provide training opportunities for the health professions and medical device suppliers. Undergraduates will be employed as laboratory assistants.

“What we're looking at with the human anatomy lab is the opportunity for orthopedic surgeons and medical device companies to come and to do training programs,” Hipps said, suggesting single-day workshops might be offered. “It's not limited to our undergraduate students.”

Support facilities will include a conference room, lab preparation space, a refrigerated storage area and locker and changing rooms.

The second floor will house research and engineering labs and an interdisciplinary classroom.

Will enrolled 60 years ago in a longstanding engineering program in which students spend three years at St. Vincent and complete two additional years of study at partner institutions including Penn State and the University of Pittsburgh. Will also served as the college's first lay president, from 2000 to 2006, and formerly chaired an advisory council for the college's Herbert W. Boyer School of Natural Sciences, Mathematics and Computing. He also is one of the major private donors for the pavilion expansion, along with the Allegheny Foundation and Ralph H. Liberatore, founder and executive agency adviser of Three Rivers Orthopaedic and Spine Products, a medical device distributor based in Latrobe.

Liberatore, who serves on the college's board of directors, is credited with conceiving of the pavilion expansion and the planned industry training partnership.

Three Rivers sales include devices used in joint replacements. “Because of the nature of the implants and the technology, we sort of support and educate everybody around that surgery” as well as the company's staff, Liberatore said. “The technology is changing so much. Today, we're navigating in robotics. You need that practical training.”

Liberatore said he was considering installing an anatomy lab in his own building but realized it could be put to greater use at St. Vincent.

“You can use it for research and dissection and maybe forensics,” he said. “There's a whole lot of things you can do once you have the right laboratory.”

MacLachlan, Cornelius and Filoni of Pittsburgh is the general architect for the project, with H.F. Lenz Co. serving as a consultant. The new building will feature LED lighting and will use a geothermal heating and cooling system, complementing the existing pavilion design.

When presenting plans for the project to Unity officials, Lenz representative Keith Gindlesperger indicated the new building is designed to accommodate three new faculty members and 40 additional students.

Dedicated in June 2013, the Dupre Pavilion includes the Herbert W. Boyer School, the Angelo Taiani Planetarium and Astronaut Exhibit and the Dr. Frank J. Luparello Lecture Hall.

Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-6622 or jhimler@tribweb.com.

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