Phase 1 of science building renovation project nears completion

New DiDonato Family Lecture Hall offers state-of-the-art functionalities for students
Robert Leitner ’17

A complete renovation has transformed a classroom in Rider University's Science and Technology Center into a new state-of-the-art lecture hall.

The work is part of an ambitious plan to renovate the first floor of the original 30,000-square foot science building originally constructed on Rider’s 280-acre Lawrenceville campus in 1961.

The project comes as the University is experiencing tremendous growth in the sciences with an increase of students gravitating toward disciplines in STEM, or science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“As we continue to revamp and revitalize our facilities, it will help recruit new students and retain the students we already have, as well as prepare those students for the best opportunities when they graduate,” says Jonathan Millen, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Overall, the $2.1 million project will impact about 1,000 students per year by enhancing their academic experiences through interior upgrades including new technology, lighting, seating and windows.

The recent seven-week upgrade to Science 102 has created The DiDonato Family Lecture Hall, one of the premiere classrooms on the Lawrenceville campus that can serve as a venue for other events as well. The room is now handicap accessible thanks to the addition of a ramp, it seats 140 students and has windows that allow natural light into the room.

“The natural light, along with the LED lighting, creates a better, brighter, more academically conducive environment,” says Mike Reca, vice president of facilities and university operations.

The upgrade to Science 102 was funded through a naming gift from alumnus and Board of Trustee member Bruce DiDonato ’76 and his wife, Denise. DiDonato is a board-certified optometrist who specializes in the medical management of glaucoma. In 1981, he founded the Campus Eye Group & Laser Center in Hamilton, N.J., where he serves as president.

“The University is grateful to Trustee Bruce DiDonato ’76 and his wife, Denise, for making this truly generous gift,” says Vice President of University Advancement Jonathan Meer. “Their contribution goes a long way to completing a much-needed renovation of one of our most heavily used academic facilities in the science and technology building, and it also raises the bar for other alumni who studied in the sciences who we hope will step forward and join the campaign to fully renovate the science and technology building.”

The building renovation also included the entire first-floor hallway, two vestibules and a computer science lab — all of which contributes to a more welcoming environment. When the fundraising initiative began, faculty members who work in the building were among the first to generously contribute, Meer says. “Their participation in this campaign sent a signal to our alumni and to others how committed they are to the success of the sciences at Rider, and that is a very powerful statement for which the University is grateful.”

To get the project started, Rider took a phased approach to the renovation, with the Science 102 renovation and the accompanying enhancements to the first floor being part one of three. Subsequent phases of the project will continue this summer.

Meer notes that the volunteer chairman of the campaign, Gary Nath ’66, has helped drive the success through his own giving and enthusiastic cultivation of others on the Science Advisory Board. Other contributions have come from the George I. Alden Trust of Worcester, Mass., the State of New Jersey Office of the Secretary of Higher Education and many individuals.

“This project was done on a very condensed timeline,” Reca says. “I want to offer kudos to Provost DonnaJean Fredeen and Dean Jonathan Millen. Their cooperation in this quick design and turnaround, along with the work of the contractor and my staff is paying off, because our students are now in a much better learning environment.”