The Robert R. and Kay Onstead Science Center, formerly the Foster Science Building, opened for classes in August 2018.
The Anthony Lobby of the Robert R. and Kay Onstead Science Center was packed Friday, Aug. 24, 2018, with members of the Abilene Christian University community to celebrate the facility’s grand opening. The occasion also marked the completion of the university’s Vision in Action initiative.
“It is fitting that the final project for Vision in Action is the completion of the Onstead Science Center,” ACU president Dr. Phil Schubert (’91) said at the ceremony. “We can think of no better way to celebrate putting our vision of building ACU’s future into action than opening this facility named for two of the university’s most generous visionaries. It was Kay Onstead’s $10 million commitment in 2012 for a new science center in honor of her late husband, Bob, that ignited an initiative that would transform the campus in a manner not seen in more than 50 years.”
Kay and members of her extended family were on hand for the celebration, and her son, Charlie Onstead (’89), spoke on behalf of the family. The grand opening not only represents the conclusion of Vision in Action, he said; it represents the start of a new era at ACU and new life in a facility that will be enjoyed for generations.
The Onstead Science Center is the third of three science facilities built or renovated as part of Vision in Action; the Engineering and Physics Laboratories at Bennett Gymnasium opened in August 2015, and the Halbert-Walling Research Center was dedicated in February 2017. The projects bring ACU’s science facilities into the 21st century.
“Transforming the 86,000-square-foot Foster Science Building into the Onstead Science Center has been no easy feat,” said Dr. Autumn Sutherlin, assistant dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and director of academic construction for the facility. “As a professor of biochemistry, I never imagined I would spend so much time wearing a hard hat and reviewing floor plans. But contributing to this space has been an invaluable opportunity and has reminded me of the importance of collaboration, problem-solving and innovation.
“We like to focus on those aspects of education here, and our upgraded facilities allow us to train our students in techniques and methods they will encounter when they leave ACU to enter the workforce or continue their education.”
The Onstead Center is filled with collaboration and consultation spaces where students can work together and with faculty, Sutherlin said, and bigger labs and classrooms accommodate ACU’s growing science programs, with set-ups that can be reconfigured and encourage interaction. Updated equipment in the facility, she added, will keep the university’s programs and research competitive.
Sophomore biochemistry major Bao Catteau, from Denison, Texas, spoke on behalf of students. ACU graduates’ acceptance rate to medical school, which is consistently twice the national average, attracted him to the university, as did the opportunities to participate in missions. “That partnership of science and faith is important to me,” he said.
He concluded by thanking the facility’s donors, especially Kay Onstead.
“Thank you again for investing in students like me,” he said. “Thank you for believing in me. You are truly a visionary, and I hope to one day follow in your footsteps and help make a real difference in the world.”
“When students work alongside a faculty member doing basic research, they learn valuable lessons about how to collect, process and interpret data. Pre-health professions students are learning to be scientists who plan to practice medicine. Research experience heightens their awareness of how medical knowledge is expanded, and many of our students express interest in continuing to participate in research as they move into their professional careers.”
“Over Spring Break, I went to Thomazeau, Haiti, for a weeklong medical mission trip with seven students and two professors from ACU. The trip to Haiti reinforced my passion – service for the poor .... Someday, I want to live among the poor and use my career in medicine to help them.”