Aquinas College receives largest individual donation in its history, $3 million gift supports new LEED-Gold Hall of Science

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Aquinas College has received a $3 million gift, the institution’s largest single donation ever from individual living donors, in support of the renovation and expansion of its new Gold LEED-certified Albertus Magnus Hall of Science.

Longtime supporters Peter and Carolyn Sturrus of Grand Haven were drawn to the project by the opportunity to support science and faith-based education simultaneously. While the College has received the generous support of private foundations, this is the largest gift from individual donors in the 135-year history of Aquinas.

More than 15 years in the making, the expansion of Albertus Magnus Hall created space for new in-demand programs including biochemistry and molecular biology, data analytics, environmental studies, health science and geospatial technologies. The atrium, which bridges the renovated portion of Albertus Hall and the new addition, will be named the Peter and Carolyn Sturrus Atrium.

The Sturrus Atrium connects the Peter M. Wege Wing, recognizing a significant donation from The Wege Foundation, with the Sister Mary Aquinas Weber, O.P. Wing, named by an anonymous gift to honor the College’s chancellor emerita.

The facility has earned LEED Gold certification for its many green features, including the only green roof on campus that can be used as an outdoor classroom or gathering space, energy-reducing features and more.

The media and members of the community are invited to a dedication and open house of the Albertus Hall, 1700 Fulton St. E, at 5 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 16. Remarks will begin at 5:30 p.m.

“Albertus Magnus taught that religion and science are not mutually exclusive,” Peter Sturrus explained. “That idea drew us to want to support this space for students in a significant way.

“Carolyn and I want to see more students have access to a solid, faith-based education. We also believe that our world will continue to be better as we make advances in science and technology. This project brought it together for us.”

The Sturrus gift supports the $58 million Contributing to More Comprehensive Campaign, or CTM. The campaign enabled the College to more than double the square footage of Albertus Hall for a total of 89,195 square feet. The gift also propelled the College past its CTM campaign goal with more than $59.3 million raised to date, another historic accomplishment.

“We are deeply honored and humbled by Peter and Carolyn’s extreme generosity,” said Aquinas President Kevin G. Quinn. “At Aquinas, we believe in the development of the whole person, which resonates with Peter and Carolyn.

“The new science facility is transforming the way we serve our students. It is a point of pride for all Saints and a symbol of the future of Aquinas College.”

Originally built in 1959, Albertus Hall underwent a significant transformation and expansion to better meet the needs of students and faculty as they prepare for graduate study or STEM careers. The facility now features:

  • 15 teaching laboratories, including a nursing simulation and observation area.
  • Six dedicated research laboratories, at least one for each science discipline.
  • 11 classrooms, 26 offices and eight study and collaborative spaces.
  • A new home for the Center for Sustainability.

“This is now one of the top science facilities in our region,” said Sister Damien Marie Savino, Aquinas dean of science and sustainability. “As a private liberal arts college, we care about academics and the personal formation of our students. We want engineers, scientists, doctors and nurses who are ethical, caring and committed to doing good, and this building reflects that.

“We were intentional in taking a progressive approach to student spaces to promote interdisciplinary collaboration and active and experiential learning that is accessible to students from every background. Science comes to life here.”

This is not the first major gift Aquinas has received from the Sturruses. In 2008, they were lead donors for the construction of the Sturrus Sports & Fitness Center, which sits at the opposite end of campus from Albertus Hall.

The couple’s connection to Aquinas goes back more than four decades when Peter Sturrus attended Aquinas as an adult learner after already being a tool-and-die, supervisor and engineer. He graduated in 1977 with a degree in business and went on to be the longtime president of Shape Corp. in Grand Haven.

While Carolyn Sturrus did not attend Aquinas, she has deep roots in higher education, serving as assistant to several presidents of Muskegon Community College for more than 30 years.

“We feel joy and satisfaction in extending the arm of God’s love to students from all walks of life,” Carolyn Sturrus added. “We believe if anyone has any inclination to give, there is no better cause than education.”

Aquinas used Catalyst Partners of Grand Rapids as its LEED consultant for the project, ensuring sustainability was part of the design-build process. Tower Pinkster served as project architect and Pioneer Construction as general contractor.

In addition to the green roof, the science hall incorporates a white reflective roof, vegetated planters, shaded parking lot and forested surroundings to help reduce the heat island effect prevalent in cities. Other unique green features for Albertus Hall include:

  • Using local materials from within a 500-mile radius of Grand Rapids, which reduced the project’s carbon footprint.
  • Repurposing and reusing more than 75% of the existing building’s structure while reinvigorating dated learning spaces with new environmentally friendly finishes and technology.
  • Relying on advanced ventilation systems that increase air exchanges and greatly improve ventilation and indoor air quality while saving more than $38,000 annually in energy costs.
  • Providing access to natural light by placing offices, classrooms and labs on the perimeter of the building, which improves work and study conditions while resulting in 20% cost savings from reduced usage of artificial light.
  • Installing low-flush toilets and automatic faucets, which are projected to reduce water usage by 40%.
  • Diverting more than 90% of demolition waste from the landfill.