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Onstead Science Center marks completion of Vision in Action

By on August 31, 2018 in Academic News, ACU News, Campus News with 0 Comments

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Guests gathered in Anthony Lobby at the new Robert R. and Kay Onstead Science Center for its grand opening celebration Aug. 24.
Guests gathered in Anthony Lobby at the new Robert R. and Kay Onstead Science Center for its grand opening celebration Aug. 24.

The Anthony Lobby of the Robert R. and Kay Onstead Science Center was packed Friday, Aug. 24, 2018, with members of the Abilene Christian University community to celebrate the facility’s grand opening. The occasion also marked the completion of the university’s Vision in Action initiative.

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The opening of the Robert R. and Kay Onstead Science Center featured the cutting of a ceremonial ribbon. Pictured from left: Dr. Gregory Straughn, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences; Dr. Robert Rhodes, provost; April Anthony, chair of the Board of Trustees; Charlie Onstead; Kay Onstead; Ann Hill; Randall Onstead; Mary Onstead; Dr. Phil Schubert, president; Bao Catteau, sophomore; and Dr. Autumn Sutherlin, assistant dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.
The opening of the Robert R. and Kay Onstead Science Center featured the cutting of a ceremonial ribbon. Pictured from left: Dr. Gregory Straughn, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences; Dr. Robert Rhodes, provost; April Anthony, chair of the Board of Trustees; Charlie Onstead; Kay Onstead; Ann Hill; Randall Onstead; Mary Onstead; Dr. Phil Schubert, president; Bao Catteau, sophomore; and Dr. Autumn Sutherlin, assistant dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

“It is fitting that the final project for Vision in Action is the completion of the Onstead Science Center,” ACU president Dr. Phil Schubert (’91) said at the ceremony. “We can think of no better way to celebrate putting our vision of building ACU’s future into action than opening this facility named for two of the university’s most generous visionaries. It was Kay Onstead’s $10 million commitment in 2012 for a new science center in honor of her late husband, Bob, that ignited an initiative that would transform the campus in a manner not seen in more than 50 years.”

Kay and members of her extended family were on hand for the celebration, and her son, Charlie Onstead (’89), spoke on behalf of the family. The grand opening not only represents the conclusion of Vision in Action, he said; it represents the start of a new era at ACU and new life in a facility that will be enjoyed for generations.

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Kay Onstead poses with Bao Catteau, a sophomore biochemistry major from Denison, Texas, who is a recipient of an endowed scholarship Onstead has funded.
Kay Onstead poses with Bao Catteau, a sophomore biochemistry major from Denison, Texas, who is a recipient of an endowed scholarship Onstead has funded.

The Onstead Science Center is the third of three science facilities built or renovated as part of Vision in Action; the Engineering and Physics Laboratories at Bennett Gymnasium opened in August 2015, and the Halbert-Walling Research Center was dedicated in February 2017. The projects bring ACU’s science facilities into the 21st century.

“Transforming the 86,000-square-foot Foster Science Building into the Onstead Science Center has been no easy feat,” said Dr. Autumn Sutherlin, assistant dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and director of academic construction for the facility. “As a professor of biochemistry, I never imagined I would spend so much time wearing a hard hat and reviewing floor plans. But contributing to this space has been an invaluable opportunity and has reminded me of the importance of collaboration, problem-solving and innovation.

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Kay Onstead speaks with Department of Engineering and Physics faculty Dr. Rusty Towell (center) and Dr. Jess Dowdy.
Kay Onstead speaks with Department of Engineering and Physics faculty Dr. Rusty Towell (center) and Dr. Jess Dowdy.

“We like to focus on those aspects of education here, and our upgraded facilities allow us to train our students in techniques and methods they will encounter when they leave ACU to enter the workforce or continue their education.”

The Onstead Center is filled with collaboration and consultation spaces where students can work together and with faculty, Sutherlin said, and bigger labs and classrooms accommodate ACU’s growing science programs, with set-ups that can be reconfigured and encourage interaction. Updated equipment in the facility, she added, will keep the university’s programs and research competitive.

Sophomore biochemistry major Bao Catteau, from Denison, Texas, spoke on behalf of students. ACU graduates’ acceptance rate to medical school, which is consistently twice the national average, attracted him to the university, as did the opportunities to participate in missions. “That partnership of science and faith is important to me,” he said.

He concluded by thanking the facility’s donors, especially Kay Onstead.

“Thank you again for investing in students like me,” he said. “Thank you for believing in me. You are truly a visionary, and I hope to one day follow in your footsteps and help make a real difference in the world.”

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Sarah Carlson

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About the Author: Sarah Carlson is communications coordinator for the office of advancement at Abilene Christian University, her alma mater. She returned in 2015 after almost a decade working in journalism and corporate communication.
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