Abbot Peter Engel Science Center
Peter Engel Science Center, (Left to Right) ca. 1967, 2006, ca. 1967, 1965-1966, 2006, ca. 1967 (click thumbnails for larger images)
Architect: Marcel Breuer & Associates, New York; Rafferty; CSNA
In 1964, conversations about creating a new science building began. The 100,000 square foot building would house the physics, chemistry, biology, and math departments. This construction project would be the 7th addition to the 100- year building program and was projected to cost $2.4 million dollars. In attempts to reduce costs, Father Casper Keogh traveled to industrial plants throughout the country and received more than $18,000 of scientific equipment. With this, the decision was made to embark on the construction project. On April 20, 1965, Abbot Baldwin Dworschak broke ground and commenced the 2-year construction of the Science Center. It was dedicated on April 29, 1967.
The new, three story science building was located on the southeast side of the Alcuin Library. Initially, the building would be split up by levels with physics in the lower level, chemistry on the ground floor, and biology on the third floor. The physics department had two optics labs, two dark rooms, and an electrical repair and sheet metal workshop. The biology department had a taxidermy room, an air-conditioned animal room, a museum, an embryology lab, a bacteriology lab, and a parasite lab. Additionally, the building would have a radiation lab, science library and astronomy observation on the roof. An adjoining building, Pellegrene Auditorium, housed a 300-seat lecture hall. Next to the building a greenhouse was installed.
Since its construction, the Abbot Peter Engel has gone through several renovations. In 1978, the psychology department moved into Pengel, rearranging the location of departments within the building. The Psychology department was moved to the Main Building at St. Benedict’s in the summer of 2019. Additionally, in 1987 a parking lot was created on the east side of Abbot Peter Engel building to accommodate the additional traffic on campus.
In 1994, construction began on the New Science Center, permitting the departments located in Peter Engel to expand. Classrooms were also renovated to allow for a transition to hands-on learning. With a grant from the National Science Foundation, renovations began in 1996. The first phase involved renovation of the second floor and the expansion of the rapidly-growing biology department. The second phase reconstructed the basement and first floor. The building also was made more handicap-accessible and aimed to give students more spaces for study and relaxation.
In 2000 the building was re-named the Peter Engel Science Center in honor of scientist and abbot Peter Engel OSB. Previously the name had been attached to the original science building, which had become home to the social sciences and re-named Simons Hall.
During the summer of 2019 and into the 2019-2020 academic year, the Peter Engel Science Center building was further renovated creating a student work area, introducing more technology to the classrooms, and replacing some of the interior brick walls with glass. With the move of the Math, Computer Science, and Psychology departments to CSB's Main Building, the Peter Engel science building houses the St. John's Outdoor University/Arboretum and the Environmental Studies and Biology departments.
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- SJU Alumni Magazine, Dec. 1999, p. 6