Under a beautiful September sky, Western Carolina University dignitaries, alumni, students, staff and faculty gathered to celebrate the grand opening of the new Apodaca Science Building, an architecturally stunning structure named after former state Sen. Tom Apodaca, a 1980 WCU alumnus.
The $110.5 million state-of-the art facility replaces the university’s 1970s-era Natural Science Building and is the largest capital project that is part of the $2 billion voter-approved Connect NC bond for infrastructure improvements.
The WCU Board of Trustees voted to name the building after Apodaca to recognize his support for WCU and the region. Apodaca is a former Board member and served in the North Carolina Legislature from 2002-2016.
The multi-level building is 182,989 square feet and features five stories of laboratory, classroom, assembly space, 150-person seat lecture hall, office space and a collaborative space. There is also an additional rooftop plaza level for astronomy observations and a greenhouse.
The facility is home to the Department of Biology, Department of Chemistry and Physics and the interdisciplinary program in Forensic Science. David Kinner, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said the building offers students an extraordinary facility in which to learn about science.
"This Apodaca Science Building serves many of our WCU students, as those from across campus will come here to study diverse topics—from the magnificence of our universe to the complexity of a human body,” Kinner said. “Hopefully, students also begin to understand the scientific process, the steady and continued work of asking and answering questions, and comprehend the ability of science (and even student scientists) to provide important information and breakthroughs for society."
WCU Chancellor Kelli R. Brown told the crowd that bringing a project of this size to fruition is a team effort. “Thank you for your support, and the voters of North Carolina for approving Connect NC Bond and endorsing the state’s commitment to public higher education,” Brown said. “We also thank you for recognizing the importance of this 21st century facility and its role of increasing hands-on learning and research efforts to teach the next generation of scientists.”
Other speakers included Bob Roberts, chair of the WCU Board of Trustees; Peter Hans, president of the University of North Carolina System; and state Sen. Phil Berger, president pro tempore.