The John J. and Char Kopchick Hall broke ground Sept. 23, with appearances by Dr. Michael Driscoll, president of the university, and John and Char Kopchick (right).

The groundbreaking ceremony for John J. and Char Kopchick Hall, the new science building, took place in the Oak Grove Sept. 23.

The first to speak at the ceremony was Vice President for University Advancement Khatmeh Osseiran-Hanna.

“[Kopchick Hall] will be the epicenter of all of our stem work,” she said. “It will provide our students with top-notch opportunities and our faculty members with a new home that will allow them to expand research and explore new ways of sharing their love of science and mathematics.

“The building behind me points to our future. We want to be leaders in research in discovery. We want to be known as a destination for curious scientists and mathematicians who want to learn more and share what they have discovered.”

The building will be 142,536  square feet with four floors and a basement. It will be equipped with an anatomy lab, greenhouse, imaging lab, laser lab, planetarium and vivarium.

Kopchick Hall will replace and Walsh and Weyandt Hall, which were both built in the 1960s. It will also sit on the ground of Leonard Hall (English Department), which was named after Jane E. Leonard who taught for 46 years and fought for the advancement of women’s rights.

Dr. Deanne Snavely, the dean of the Kopchick College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, explained the history of how this new science building came to be and her optimism for the future.

“The first request that IUP put in for a new science building was over 20 years ago,” she said. “It has been on the docket for a long time. I am in my 10th year here at IUP, and when I arrived, I was told I was going to be designing the new science building for IUP.

“Ten years later, we are getting to the point where we are doing the groundbreaking. This has been in the plans for a long time.”

Snavely said the building represents the “continuation of high standards that we strive for in science and math at IUP.”

She also praised the efforts of faculty, staff and students who are working together to build a scientific community.

Dr. John and Char Kopchick, both IUP alumni, gave 23 million dollars to IUP’s Imagine Unlimited Campaign in April 2018 for the new science building.

In October, IUP will reach the goal of fundraising 75 million dollars for the building. The money left over will also go toward scholarships and research opportunities for undergraduates. John Kopchick explained why he chose to give that money to IUP.

“Without my education here, I wouldn’t be in a position to give anyone money,” he said. “It is a way of giving back, looking forward, paying ahead. We are very proud to do that. We are very fortunate to be able to give some back.”

Kopchick said he is humbled to have the building named after them.

“We are very honored by it,” he said, “but the biggest thing is what is going to go on inside the building, and that is the training of young minds in the mathematics and the sciences.”

After John Kopchick earned his bachelor's and master’s degree in molecular biology at IUP in 1975, he went on to teach biology at Ohio University. His wife, Char, is the assistant dean of students there. John also became the co-inventor of the drug Somavert, which treats the rare hormonal disorder acromegaly.

Char Kopchick spoke of the different definitions of what groundbreaking means and its importance in stepping toward a bright future.

“What I would like you all to remember about today’s groundbreaking is that today is much more than turning the first sod of the construction of what is going to be a new and amazing building,” she said. “It is about the groundbreaking things that are going to occur within its walls. It is about the faculty and students who will discover remarkable things by being innovative, and these same faculty and students will pioneer new fields of inquiry in science and mathematics.”

Most importantly, she said it is about the students so they can build a solid foundation for their futures.

“Our town is Indiana, our state is Pennsylvania,” IUP President Michael Driscoll said. “But our reach [with Kopchick Hall] is the whole world. Here, they will do more than be in awe of new discoveries; they will make them.”

Geoscience professor Dr. Jonathan Lewis also looks forward to the new building.

“I am excited to teach and guide student-driven geoscience research in a modern building purpose-built for science,” he said. “The open configuration and shared lab spaces will enable cross-disciplinary conversations and more sharing overall.

“Sharing ideas leads to synergy, and this will provide a rich environment for training the next generation of problem solvers.”

The finished building in fall 2023 is a long way away. This year, according to Director of Engineering and Construction Jason Mackovyak, students can see excavations, hauling and underground utility work being done.

The current schedule is for concrete footers, the major structure of the building, to be completed in late April 2021. Steel erection, the framework and shape of the building, will start in May 2021 and extend until October. The demolition of Weyandt will begin in August 2023 after classes have started.

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