Valpo’s physical spaces and the students, faculty, and staff who teach and learn in them have changed throughout the years. What hasn’t changed is what lies at the heart of the Valpo experience — the feeling that comes from being part of a community that embraces faith and learning, teaches young minds to ask critical questions, and creates a sense of belonging by celebrating the legacy that built the University’s foundation.
For current students, the Christopher Center’s wide variety of study spaces and lower-level coffee shop have always been a reality. These same students know a University that offers quick breakfast burritos at the Harre Union, classes in the College of Arts and Sciences building, research hours in the James S. Markiewicz Solar Energy Research Facility, and Chapel Break at 10 o’clock.
Alumni who graduated in the late ’90s might recall the sense of excitement that came with being the first to take art, music, and theatre classes in the Center for the Arts, classes that were once taught in poorly heated Baldwin Hall, Kroencke Hall, and Kinsey Hall. Other memories for alumni might include the long, bitter walk to Heidbrink Hall across the “frozen tundra,” how challenging it was to get lunch at Jester’s and attend Chapel during the 11 o’clock Chapel Break, or how thrilling it was to see an open study table near the windows in Moellering Library.
For alumni from years prior, there are the fond memories of living in Dau-Kreinheder, Altruria, or Dodge Halls, trains passing by during classes in Heimlich Hall, strolls across the Kissing Bridge, the Chapel’s construction, or hearing one of O.P. Kretzmann’s Vespers sermons. And though some of the buildings and the people have changed, the memories created during those times and their legacy live on.
Each building on campus tells the story of the Valpo experience, and the Center for the Sciences: Chemistry and Biochemistry — dedicated Sept. 29, 2017 — is the newest addition to the campus and to the Valpo story.
Lab-Intensive Learning and Purposeful Placement
Completed in summer 2017, the Center for the Sciences: Chemistry and Biochemistry boasts two main floors and 55,800 square feet, accommodating a variety of spaces for teaching and learning, particularly through research and collaboration. A laboratory-intensive building, the Center for the Sciences fosters a multidisciplinary environment for the chemistry, biology, and physics and astronomy departments. Intentionally bringing all departments together for collaborative exploration, the lab area gives both budding and experienced scientists the chance to work side by side, sharing equipment and developing ideas.
Located on the east end of campus, facing the Chapel, the Center’s purposeful positioning on campus highlights Valpo’s ongoing commitment to the intersection of faith and learning — embodying the metaphor of Athens and Jerusalem. Just as the inside of the building — the labs and research spaces — encourages a partnership between students and professors from different disciplines, the building also works with neighboring Gellersen to create a communal space. Between the buildings you’ll find the STEM Quad — an outdoor area where students can meet, collaborate, and socialize.
Where Art Meets Science
Interdisciplinary cooperation is visible in more than just the new learning spaces in the Center for the Sciences. Art meets science as two alumni, Carol ’47 and Edwin ’48 Engerer, together with Professors Steven (1984–2018) and Barbara (1985–2012) Engerer, have generously commissioned a custom piece of art to be on permanent display in the Center for the Sciences. Entitled “Out of the Darkness … Light!” and made by local glassblowing artists — Hot Shop Valpo — this incredible sculpture’s theme of light reflects an academic concept integral to the three science departments that now occupy the building.
More than just scientific, though, light is a powerful symbol, especially for Valpo. When reflecting on why his family chose to center their gift around this idea, Professor Steven Engerer says, “The theme of light works on multiple levels. It aligns perfectly with the motto of Valparaiso University, In Luce Tua Videmus Lucem, ‘In Thy Light We See Light.’ Light is a metaphor for both the search for understanding and the quest for knowledge. The glass artists were also thrilled with this theme, because blown glass is the ideal medium for transmitting and reflecting light. And they have successfully brought this vision to reality.”
Professor Engerer says his family’s gift reflects the spiritual tradition of Valparaiso University, and he believes “it is appropriate for a University under the Cross to have a verse from scripture associated with this artwork.” He says the selected verse exemplifies the glassblown artwork’s title and its various interpretations: ‘The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.’ (John 1:5). A plaque with this verse soon will be on display in the lobby of the Center for the Sciences, ensuring one of the sculpture’s many meanings will be clear to those who stop to admire it.
Reflecting The Valpo Light
From its academic capabilities to its aesthetic qualities, the Center for the Sciences truly illustrates the many facets of Valpo. The feeling of being able to “do it all” at Valpo is a constant — a tradition. As the campus grows and flourishes, buildings like the Center for the Sciences only affirm the strength of that tradition.