Baylor Regents Vote To Establish Honors College, Approve Construction Of New Science Building

News Photo 218
Baylor President Robert B. Sloan Jr. spoke at a news conference Friday about the construction of a new $103 million science building on the Baylor campus.
Feb. 22, 2002

by Larry D. Brumley

Baylor University regents today approved the first major components of Baylor 2012, the institution's recently adopted 10-year vision.

The board authorized creation of a new Honors College, Baylor's 10th academic division, effective June 1, and approved the issuance of up to $200 million in bonds to fund construction of a $103 million science building, a 1,200-car parking garage, additional student housing and information technology upgrades. All of these projects are key imperatives of Baylor 2012, which the regents approved last September. The 10-year vision calls for Baylor to enter the top tier of American universities over the next decade while reaffirming and deepening its distinctive Christian mission.

A national search will begin soon for a dean to lead the Honors College, which will incorporate the university's 53-year-old honors program, as well as its University Scholars, Baylor Interdisciplinary Core and proposed great texts programs. An office of national and international scholarships will also be a part of the new Honors College and will assist Baylor students in applying for Rhodes, Fulbright, Marshall, Truman, Goldwater, Rotary and other prestigious scholarships for post-baccalaureate study.

The College will be located in Morrison Constitution Hall, former home of the Baylor Law School. Regents today approved a $2.5 million renovation of the 59,000-square-foot facility, which also will house offices and classrooms for the philosophy, classics and modern foreign languages department, as well as space for student retention, the Center for Christian Ethics, the Institute of Faith and Learning and the Graduate School.

Approval of the bond financing clears the way for a May groundbreaking on the 500,000-square-foot science facility, which will be located on the current intramural field adjacent to the McLane Student Life Center. Construction is under way on new intramural fields across LaSalle Avenue from the Ferrell Special Events Center. The bonds will cover the difference, if any, between funds raised through gifts and grants and the cost of construction. The university is aggressively seeking foundation grants and corporate and individual gifts to help fund the science building project, but the urgent need for additional science laboratories, classrooms and faculty offices mandated that the university move ahead with the project without further delay.

Regents also approved architectural plans for the new building, the largest construction project in Baylor's 157-year history. It will consolidate departments currently located in Sid Richardson and Marrs McLean science buildings, including chemistry, physics, biology, geology, mathematics, neurosciences and psychology. The Beck Group of Dallas has been selected as the general contractor, and work should begin in June with completion slated by fall of 2004.

"I am very pleased that the regents endorsed these two key academic imperatives of the 10-year vision," said Baylor President Robert B. Sloan Jr. "Creation of the Honors College and construction of the much-needed science building will send a clear signal that Baylor is serious about achieving the Baylor 2012 imperatives and realizing its goal of joining the ranks of America's top universities."

The new parking garage, whose plans were also approved by regents today, will be located at the corner of Dutton Avenue and University Parks Drive on land currently occupied by the university-owned Baylor Landing Apartments. Those apartments will be demolished this summer to make way for the new structure, which also will include 30,000-square-feet of office space for Baylor academic, information technology and other administrative departments.

The new facilities are reflected in an updated campus master plan that the regents adopted. Developed by F&S Partners of Dallas the SmithGroup JJR of Washington, D.C., the plan addresses campus and facilities planning for the next two to three decades.

Included on the new master plan are several new residential villages, designed to increase the on-campus student population, a key imperative of the Baylor 2012 vision. The goal is to move the percentage of students living on campus from 33 percent to 50 percent over the next 10 years by adding 1,800 beds.

While the $200 million bond authorization includes some funding for new residence halls, the board of regents has yet to consider specific housing proposals. Those proposals will be brought to the regents for approval at future meetings.

"We are already working on plans for new residential life facilities that will incorporate our 10-year vision objective of integrating campus living and learning," President Sloan said. "We will be bringing these plans before the board of regents within the next few months and anticipate having our first new residential village constructed by 2004."

Before adjourning to participate in dedication ceremonies for George W. Truett Theological Seminary's new $18 million Baugh-Reynolds Campus, regents also approved $2.1 million in improvements to the Baylor Marina pool facility. The improvements will incorporate a new 5,000-square-foot structure featuring men's and women's locker rooms, offices and a classroom. The project, which is scheduled for completion by year-end, also includes a retractable roof for the pool, new decking, a rebuilt parking lot and other site improvements.

The board's next meeting is scheduled for May 16-17.

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