Dedication of renovated Houghton Hall to highlight Homecoming

Roger Coda
renovated space in Houghton Hall to complete Science Complex for STEM, Geology program, Environmental Sciences program, Physics program, Computer and Information Sciences program, Mathematical Sciences program

A re-imagined and renovated collaborative student space in Houghton Hall.

The welcome mat will be rolled out during Homecoming, including on Friday afternoon, Oct. 14, for the dedication of the renovated and redesigned Houghton Hall that completes the transformation of STEM education at SUNY Fredonia.

Houghton Hall brings Geology and Environmental Sciences; Physics, Computer and Information Sciences, and Mathematical Sciences together under one roof and connects with the Science Center – home to Biology, Biochemistry, Chemistry and Science Education – to form the Fredonia Science Complex.

Houghton is equipped with high-tech laboratories with cutting-edge equipment for teaching and research, well-designed conference rooms and comfortable student lounges that encourage interdisciplinary collaboration.

“One only has to stroll through Houghton to appreciate its impact on our students and their professors,” said Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Andy Karafa. “The energy is palpable.” 

Houghton Project Shepherd and Associate Professor of Physics Erica Simoson will lead a tour of the building that starts in the front first floor lobby at 1 p.m. The dedication ceremony, at 2 p.m., will feature remarks by Fredonia President Stephen H. Kolison Jr. and Dean Karafa.

The formal ribbon-cutting ceremony is at 2:30 p.m., followed by individual ribbon-cutting ceremonies of 13 named spaces beginning at 3 p.m.

Faculty and students will be stationed in their respective academic departments and areas of interest, such as the Department of Mathematical Sciences’ unique “fishbowl” study room and the Department of Computer and Information Sciences’ robotics lab, throughout the afternoon. Light refreshments will be served at 4:30 p.m.

“One guiding principle behind the design of the building was collaborative learning. Indeed, one of our spaces is called the Bradley Collaboratory. Just about everywhere you walk, you see students engaging with each other and with their professors,” Karafa said.

Renovation of the 74,000-square-foot structure that opened in the 1970s can easily be described as massive, encompassing interior demolition, hazardous materials abatement and exterior rehabilitation that began in 2017, followed by interior redesign, construction and fit-out, or finish work in individual spaces. Houghton began to resemble a parking ramp when exterior brick and concrete block outer walls were removed early in the demolition phase.

The finished building incorporates many new features, such as brightly painted interiors, an additional interior corridor on the first and second floors that leads to department office suites, as well as open study areas lit by natural light and interior research labs that can be viewed from corridors. Yet, some of Houghton’s character – dark brick walls in stairwells, skylights and precast concrete t-shaped beams in ceilings – remains.

“When you walk through the building, there’s still a sense of what Houghton used to be, but at the same time there’s a newness about it,” observed Director of Facilities Planning Markus Kessler. “It’s a much more pleasant space to be in for faculty and students.”

As the Houghton project spanned eight years, from initial planning to completion, there were two project shepherds. Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry Associate Professor Emeritus Holly Lawson served as the original project shepherd until she retired, and was succeeded by Dr. Simoson. Both worked diligently to ensure that the needs of faculty and students were communicated and met.

The research and teaching labs were carefully designed with a great deal of faculty input to facilitate the teacher-scholar model, where members of the faculty closely mentor students in a wide array of research activities, Karafa said. “Fredonia professors have always engaged students in such high-impact experiences,” he added.

Members of the Houghton Dedication Committee include Simoson, Director of Facilities Services Kevin Cloos, Director of Marketing and Communications Jeff Woodard, Capital Projects Manager Ken Schmitz, Director of Development June Miller-Spann of the Fredonia College Foundation, Karafa and Mr. Kessler.

Campus representatives serving on the Houghton Planning Committee included Mr. Schmitz, former Capital Projects Manager Paul Agle, Simoson, Kessler and Dr. Lawson, along with representatives of the SUNY Construction Fund and Mitchell Giurgola, project architect.

Assisting the planning committee were Gretchen Fronczak from Facilities Planning, Interim Vice President for University Advancement Betty Gossett, Assistant Director of Facilities-Custodial Services Mark Delcamp, Vice President for Finance and Administration Michael Metzger, Director of Purchasing Shari Miller and Karafa.

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