Cornerstone Dedicates New Science Facility to the Glory of Christ the Creator
by Kristina Garvelink (M.S. ’15)
To the applause of donors, faculty and students, Cornerstone University opened the doors of its new Jack and Mary De Witt Center for Science and Technology on Dec. 7, 2018. The $15.5 million dollar science facility, dedicated to the glory of Christ the Creator and completed debt free, readies the university to enhance its Christ-centered educational programs in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
The facility is named after the lead donors Jack and Mary De Witt who shared the vision for the importance of a building as a resource for training and graduating students who will distinguish themselves in their science-related fields of service and influence their career cultures with the virtues and values of Christ and His kingdom. The Cornerstone community is deeply grateful to the De Witts and the other donors who have made this significant addition to our campus possible.
The dedication service included corporate worship; excerpts from Psalm 19, Job 28, Titus 2 and Hebrews 4; a tribute to Jack De Witt given by Dr. Joe Stowell; the presentation of a plaque to Mary De Witt; and a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
"On behalf of Jack, my family and myself, we feel very privileged and honored to be part of the new science and technology building, and I know if Jack was here, he would be praising God with us," De Witt shared with attendees. "Our family has a desire to honor God in all that we do, and I pray and believe that through the science and technology building God will be honored by students and faculty."
Since science is the discovery of everything Christ has created, the building is themed to the glory of Christ the Creator. Significant works of art and signage in the building reflect the theme, providing a constant reminder to students, faculty and staff that He is the master craftsman of all that they are studying and discovering.
Dr. Shawn Newhouse, vice president for traditional undergraduate academics, expressed excitement for how the state-of-the-art academic building better resources faculty to prepare students for the demands of graduate school and the job market.
"The addition of the De Witt Center for Science and Technology building on our campus is a game changer for our science, nursing, kinesiology and engineering programs," Newhouse said. "West Michigan has an increasing need for graduates from STEM fields, and we are committed to matriculating students who will help meet that need. The new facility substantially advances our mission to empower men and women to excel as influencers in our world for Christ."
The three-story building includes seven labs, faculty offices and group study areas for collaborative learning. Honoring generous donors and faculty members, the building houses an anatomy and physiology lab in memory of Reva Miller; chemistry lab named for Dick and Linda Antonini; environmental lab dedicated to Professor Raymond "Gator" Gates; engineering lab in honor of Ed and Marge Daverman; exercise and anatomical lab named for Jerry and Marcy Tubergen; and microbiology lab underwritten by J.C. and Tammy Huizenga.
For Gates, associate professor of biology, the new 29,500-square-foot academic building provides an expanded venue for integrating faith and the study of science and teaching traditional undergraduate students to critically engage topics related to origins, environmental stewardship and social issues.
"When students walk out of this facility after having a class, their faith in God will be strengthened," Gates stated.
Outfitted with an indoor plant wall, rain garden, aquarium and creation-inspired artwork, construction of the De Witt Center for Science and Technology took 13 months. The Christman Company, a longtime partner of the university and contractor for other campus buildings such as Christ Chapel, De Witt Field and Central Hall, completed the project.
"The Christman Company is proud to have partnered with Cornerstone for nearly a decade on a variety of projects that have furthered the university's mission and changed the shape of the campus," Pat Zawacki, senior project manager for The Christman Company said. "The new Jack and Mary De Witt Center for Science and Technology has been a special project for the team as they have eagerly constructed a space that will provide greater opportunities for students entering STEM fields. This unique building brought together a strong team of partners with the common goal of bringing Cornerstone's goals to fruition."
The science building stands as a testament to Jack and Mary De Witt's legacy of philanthropy and the couple's commitment to Christ-centered education. Additional Honorary Campaign Committee members include J.C. and Tammy Huizenga; Jerry and Marcia Tubergen; Arlyn and Marcia Lanting; Roger and Jan Spoelman; Mark and Marty Campbell; and Ron and Lori "Maranda" Cook.
"There is a high level of energy and anticipation among students and faculty as we envision the impact that the building will have on this campus for years to come," Newhouse concluded. "We are so grateful to those that have supported our vision of Christ-centered academic excellence."