Donation helps Columbia College move closer to science initiative completion

Friday, January 21, 2011 | 6:41 p.m. CST; updated 7:29 p.m. CST, Saturday, January 22, 2011

COLUMBIA — A $100,000 donation announced Friday puts Columbia College one step closer to completion of its science initiative.

The initiative’s core is construction of a 45,000-square-foot science building, which is estimated to cost $13 million to $15 million. The building will be built on North Range Line Street, in place of the school’s softball field.

The gift from Gary Drewing, a member of the college's Board of Trustees, will be used for building costs, although he said he left that specification to the school.

Drewing, owner of Joe Machens car dealership, did not attend Columbia College. However, he has been a trustee since 1999, the same year his son graduated from the college.

“The key to success in any business — car dealership or university — is, obviously, great people, and we have assembled some great people here,” Drewing said in a brief speech to around 55 people gathered at Dulany Hall.

Mike Kateman, executive director of the department of alumni and public relations, said the science initiative is much more than bricks and mortar.

"It’s more than a building; it’s a scholarship, equipment and faculty opportunities," Kateman said.

Funds for the science initiative also apply to new technology and science equipment. Online lab classes are part of Columbia College’s plan to embrace new technology.

Online human biology, which began in August 2009, is the only available science lab class online at Columbia College. Terry Smith, executive vice president and dean of academic affairs, hopes with more funds to expand these online labs to higher-level sciences as well.

With increased enrollment in science-related courses, the need for new facilities is pertinent. Peggy Wright, assistant professor of biology and teacher of the online lab, offered a possible reason for the growth.

“As our reputation is built, we have students choosing Columbia College over other universities,” Wright said.

As of Tuesday, the science initiative received $3.4 million. There is no set date for the construction of the building. 

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