Symbolic Groundbreaking to Launch Pearce Renovation

April 26, 2011

Mary Baldwin University will mark the start of renovations to Jesse Cleveland Pearce Science Center — and a new beginning for science education on the Staunton campus — at 4:30 p.m. Thursday during a symbolic groundbreaking ceremony.

Pearce Science Center

Held on the lawn in front of the third-floor entrance of Pearce, the event will include remarks by Mary Baldwin President Pamela Fox and Board of Trustees Chairwoman Lyn McDermid ’95, tours of the four-story building, and a reception. On the guest list are U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte, Del. Richard P. “Dickie” Bell, and Staunton Mayor Lacy B. King, Jr.

Not only will the overhaul provide dramatically improved research space for both faculty and students, but — as the largest college primarily for women in Virginia, and with minority enrollment at 42 percent — Mary Baldwin will also continue to be a leader in educating a growing cohort of diverse, young, female scientists.

Construction on Phase I of the multi-phase project will begin in early June and will include upgrades on the first and second floors of Pearce. Improvements to the second-floor classroom and adjoining lab are scheduled for completion by the time students will return to class in the fall. Project planners aim to have the renovated space ready for occupancy by early January 2012.

Funding for Phase I comes from a $1.2 million National Science Foundation grant; grants from the Dominion Foundation, the Mary Morton Parsons Foundation, and the Margaret C. Woodson Foundation; and generous contributions from alumnae and friends.

Pearce Science Center Renovation: FAQ

Q: When was Jesse Cleveland Pearce Science Center built?

A: The building was completed in 1970.

Q: What are the physical characteristics of the building?

A: It is a four-story, 46,000-square-foot building.

Q: Why does the structure need renovating?

A: Although the building’s layout was forward-thinking when it was conceived in the late 1960s, it has become outmoded over time as the college’s science curriculum has evolved. The renovations will foster collaborative learning, partnerships with other local colleges, and the recruitment of students interested in science.

students in Pearce

Q: What will the renovation mean for Mary Baldwin?

A: Most obviously, the overhaul will provide dramatically improved research space for both faculty and students. But, as the largest college primarily for women in Virginia, and with minority enrollment at 42 percent, Mary Baldwin will also continue to grow as a leader in serving a growing cohort of diverse, young, female scientists.

Q: When will construction begin?

A: In early June 2011, following Mary Baldwin’s May 22 Commencement Ceremony.

Q: How will the renovation proceed?

A: In four phases, the first of which should be complete by late December 2011. Project design and fundraising for the remaining phases is ongoing.

Q: Will there be any disruption to classes during Phase I of the renovation?

A: Much of the work, including demolition, will take place in summer 2011 before the fall semester begins. The entire first floor of Pearce will be closed for the fall semester while construction is in progress.

Q: What changes will occur as a result of Phase I?

A: Phase I will involve approximately 8,875 square feet of Pearce. Room 201 will be overhauled to create an Environmental Systems Research Lab, which is scheduled for completion in August 2011. The first floor will be renovated to create a new mammalian vivarium (an enclosed area for keeping animals for observation or research), an imaging suite with electron microscopes, a senior research space, a new classroom, and a new entrance to the building. Work is scheduled to be completed by end of 2011.

Q: How much will the renovation cost?

A: The estimated price tag of Phase I is $2.2 million. Cost for the remaining phases will be determined as the project design continues.

Q: How is the project being funded?

A: The National Science Foundation generously provided Mary Baldwin with a $1.2 million grant in fall 2010 to jump start the Pearce construction project. The Mary Morton Parsons Foundation of Richmond also provided a $100,000 challenge grant, and private donations have so far reached $675,000. Fundraising for the remainder of the Pearce renovation is a top priority for Mary Baldwin.

Q: What goes on inside Pearce?

A: The building is the hub of science learning at Mary Baldwin, sheltering faculty offices, laboratories, classrooms, a greenhouse, and the James D. Francis Auditorium. Within Mary Baldwin’s School of Science, students study biology, chemistry, computer science, mathematics, physics, and psychology.

Q: Who was Jesse Cleveland Pearce?

A: Pearce (1888-1963) was a dedicated physician who served the community of Graniteville, South Carolina, during the early 20th Century. His wife, Margaret Eldridge Henderson, graduated from Mary Baldwin in 1908. In 1970, the Mary Baldwin Board of Trustees named its new science center in memory of Dr. Pearce in appreciation of a gift made by his wife.