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Juniata To Dedicate William J. von Liebig Center for Science

(Posted September 30, 2002)

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Juniata College President Thomas R. Kepple will dedicate the college's new William J. von Liebig Center for Science, a $20 million research and teaching facility dedicated to undergraduate science education, at 11 a.m., Oct. 5 in front of the building, located along Juniata's central quadrangle.

"The completion of the von Liebig Center for Science marks the merging of two extraordinary ideas," Kepple says. "The first was the exceptional vision of Bill von Liebig, who recognized that Juniata is synonymous with excellence in science and provided the means that will keep the college at the forefront of intellectual exploration. Second, the superb Juniata science faculty and college administrators worked in tandem to create a facility that celebrates Juniata's interactive learning style and its commitment to student research."

The center's dedication ceremony, held in conjunction with Juniata's Homecoming and Family Weekend, will start at 11 a.m. with opening remarks by President Kepple. After Kepple's remarks, the building will be accepted by representatives of the student body, the faculty, the Juniata board of trustees and the William J. von Liebig Foundation.

Each representative also will make short speeches to accept the building. The representatives are: Scott Kofmehl, a senior from Pittsburgh and president of student government; David Reingold, professor of chemistry at Juniata; Thomas Pheasant, a vitreoretinal surgeon for Retinal and Ocuplastic Consultants in Camp Hill, Pa., and a member of Juniata's board of trustees; and Linda Hamilton, president of the William J. von Liebig Foundation.

After the building ribbon-cutting, performed by Henry H. Gibbel, president and CEO of Lititz Mutual Insurance Co. and chair of the Juniata board of trustees, the building will be open for self-guided tours.

The research facility was made possible by an $18 million gift by a Juniata alumnus, William J. von Liebig, a 1946 Juniata graduate and a native of Huntingdon. William von Liebig, who died Feb. 21, 1999 shortly after making his generous gift, gave $14 million from the William J. von Liebig Foundation to fund much of the construction of the new science center.

The von Liebig gift is the largest ever received by Juniata and one of the largest to be presented to a private, liberal-arts college in Pennsylvania. An additional $4 million donation from the von Liebig Foundation is being used to fund ongoing programs and several new faculty positions, including the William J. von Liebig Chair in Biomedical Sciences, currently held by Dr. Michael Boyle, a renowned immunologist and microbiologist who left a position at the Medical College of Ohio in Toledo, Ohio to return to teaching and undergraduate research. The von Liebig endowment also funds career development and equipment needs for the college's science faculty, as well as summer research grants for faculty and students. More than a dozen Juniata students were able to complete summer research projects in 2002 using von Liebig endowment funds.

"The era of one researcher working on a single problem has gone by the wayside," Dr. Boyle says. "Science is now a team sport, and the faculty and new facilities at Juniata will make teaching this more specialized approach to science very exciting."

The man most responsible for creating the new facility, William von Liebig, was a pioneer entrepreneur in medical technology. Starting his career as a textile manufacturing executive, von Liebig created the first woven synthetic graft for blood vessel replacement. Recognizing that a product niche existed for textile-based medical products, von Liebig founded Meadox Medicals Co. in 1961.

The company, once housed in a garage, evolved into a corporation valued in excess of $450 million. The company grew over time to include the development of cardiovascular products as well. Meadox Medicals served as the chief supplier of sewing rings for heart valves and was responsible for the development of a new heart valve, synthetic ligaments, and catheters. The company was sold to Boston Scientific Co in 1995. Boston Scientific still markets products under the Meadox name, which still is internationally recognized for its production of vascular prosthesis products.

In 1975, von Liebig established the von Liebig Foundation. The Foundation supports medical research, primarily for the treatment of vascular and cardiovascular diseases.

In 1991, Juniata awarded William von Liebig the Alumni Achievement Award for his contributions in the fields of vascular technology and international business. He was named a trustee of the college in 1995 and in 1999 posthumously received an honorary doctor of science degree from the college.

Juniata has produced some of the nation's top physicians and scientists including Ronald Blanck, president of the University of North Texas Medical School and former Surgeon General of the Army, Nobel Prize-winning physicist Dr. William Phillips and Dr. Erwin Hahn professor emeritus at the University of California - Berkeley and winner of the WOLF Foundation Prize in Physics.

The construction of the von Liebig center fulfills one of the major goals of the college's Uncommon Outcomes campaign. Juniata has received commitments and gifts totaling $79,507,128 as of Aug. 31. While the college has achieved its overall campaign goal, Juniata must still meet individual goals for four of the six priority elements of the Uncommon Outcomes campaign.

Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.