Bolstering its reputation as an industry leader in STEAM education, St. Thomas broke ground May 12 on the Schoenecker Center, a $110 million state-of-the-art complex that aims to break down barriers in collaborative learning.
University leaders, the Board of Trustees and the campus community gathered on south campus at the future site of the world-class STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) complex. Named in honor of Guy and Barbara Schoenecker, the first-of-its-kind center will open its doors in 2024, fostering an inclusive approach to interdisciplinary education.
"This building is actually not about contradictions, but an ideal," School of Engineering Dean Don Weinkauf said. "Forward-thinking students thrive at St. Thomas because they come with something more. They come with what I would call an 'and' spirit. Great at mathematics and athletics. Great at playing music and designing bridges."
In the works for years, the five-level Schoenecker Center will house dedicated spaces for the arts, engineering and sciences and several open spaces meant to facilitate collaboration and creative collisions. Adding more than 130,000 square feet of facilities to the university, there will be musical performance spaces, rehearsal halls, an art gallery, engineering high bays and science labs.
"Personally for me, the picture of a civil engineering student pouring concrete and then going to play her violin in the orchestra on the same afternoon in the same building is not a contradiction … it’s the foundation of the liberal arts," Dr. Mark Stansbury-O’Donnell, interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences said.
Deepening an already storied university legacy, the Schoenecker Center bears a familiar name to visitors on campus. From libraries and athletics facilities to one of the university’s largest endowed scholarship programs, the Schoenecker family’s impact is felt widely across St. Thomas.
Lisa Anderson ’83, daughter of the late Barbara and Guy Schoenecker, is thankful to see their legacy continue in a new way, transforming the base of the university's liberal arts foundation.
“My dad really, really loved this school," Anderson said. "He was a creative and innovative business leader who was always focused on what should come next."
Founder of BI Worldwide, Guy Schoenecker graduated from St. Thomas in 1949 with a philosophy and political science degree. Daughter Lisa followed in his footsteps to serve on the St. Thomas Board of Trustees.
"My dad believed that you need to listen to people to understand what they need and plan for it," Anderson said. "This is exactly what St. Thomas did in envisioning this building."
The Schoenecker Center will transform the university’s presence along Summit Avenue, where it will adjoin O’Shaughnessy Science Hall. Designed with advice from corporate industry partners, the center will foster collaboration among students who otherwise may not have worked together in traditional classroom settings.
“The world-class Schoenecker Center will, by design, beckon creative, diverse students to work together through interdisciplinary programs," President Julie Sullivan told the crowd. "This will help us to prepare the workforce of the future, which is a commitment that St. Thomas has always had."
Beyond its mission to bring together students at St. Thomas, the complex will serve to strengthen bonds within the Twin Cities community, providing learning, meeting and performance spaces for local K-12 schools and community organizations.