September 27, 1999

Dedication of New Academic Building to be Highlight of Middlebury College's Bicentennial "Celebration of the Sciences"

On Oct. 14-17, Middlebury College will hold the Bicentennial "Celebration of the Sciences," an event that will kick off a year-long series of activities honoring the College's 200th birthday. The celebration will feature the dedication of Bicentennial Hall, a new 220,000-square-foot academic facility that will serve as the home of six natural and social science departments, and the most ambitious building project in Middlebury's history. The event will also include a symposium with nationally renowned scientists and science journalists, as well as tours of the new structure. All activities are free and open to the public.

Located on the western side of campus just north of College Street, Bicentennial Hall will house classrooms, laboratories, a library, and offices for six academic departments-biology, chemistry and biochemistry, geography, geology, physics, and psychology. After more than five years of planning, Middlebury broke ground in 1997 for construction of the building, which cost $47 million dollars. On Sept. 13, the first day of classes, approximately 40 percent of MiddleburyĆ­s students began entering its doors on a weekly basis. Bicentennial Hall's environmentally sensitive features are meant to be a fitting tribute to the study of the natural environment and related subjects that will take place there.

"We are excited about the results of our efforts to be environmentally aware as we planned and built the structure. For example, Bicentennial Hall is the largest academic facility in the country to contain exclusively 'green certified' wood in its millwork-wood that has been harvested and processed through ecologically sensitive means," said Randy Landgren, director of academic facilities planning.

Bob Schaeffner of Payette Associates was the partner and project architect overseeing the building. "In our practice over the past 20 years, we have designed 85 graduate and undergraduate science projects for numerous renowned institutions, but Middlebury's vision for Bicentennial Hall was unparalleled," said Schaeffner.

"The forward looking structure pushes the envelope of sustainable design, energy-efficient systems, and a 100-year-plus life span beyond any facility of its kind while still falling within the fiscal guidelines of the College. This building represents a healthy balance between sustainable technologies, costs, and benefits," added Schaeffner.

On Oct. 14 at 4:15 p.m., the seventh annual Clifford Symposium, which is titled "What is Life?," will begin in the Concert Hall in the Center for the Arts (CFA) on Route 30. The event will start with a lecture by the first of two keynote speakers-medical ethicist James F. Childress, the Edwin B. Kyle Professor of Religious Studies and professor of medical education of the University of Virginia. Childress will discuss "Scientific Promise, Ethical Controversy: Resolving Religious and Moral Conflicts about Scientific Research."

At 7:45 p.m., paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould, the Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology of Harvard University, will give a talk titled "Wonderful Life in a Full House," which will also take place in the Concert Hall. Following the lecture, Gould will sign copies of his books "Questioning the Millenium" and "Rocks of Ages" in the upper lobby of the CFA.

On Oct. 15 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., tours of Bicentennial Hall will be available. At 12:30 p.m., John Noble Wilford, science correspondent for The New York Times, will head a panel of experts: Paula Apsell, the executive producer of the PBS show "NOVA;" John Rennie, editor in chief of Scientific American; and Boyce Rensburger, the director of Knight Science Journalism Fellowships at MIT. The discussion will take place in Bicentennial Hall's Great Hall. Bicentennial Hall is located on Bicentennial Way off College Street (Route 125).

A second panel at 3 p.m. will conclude the day's celebration with a review of the issues discussed by panelists and lecturers earlier in the day. Moderated by Maggie O'Brien, president of St. Mary's College of Maryland, the panel will include members of the Middlebury College sciences and humanities faculty and will take place in the Lecture Hall of Bicentennial Hall.

On Oct. 16 at 10:30 a.m., a convocation and the dedication of Bicentennial Hall will take place in that building's Great Hall.

Schedule of Events:



4:15 p.m. Lecture: "Scientific Promise, Ethical Controversy: Resolving Religious and Moral Conflicts about Scientific Research" by James F. Childress, Edwin B. Kyle Professor of Religious Studies and Professor of Medical Education, University of Virginia. In the Concert Hall, Center for the Arts, So. Main Street (Route 30)

7:45 p.m. Lecture: "Wonderful Life in a Full House"

Stephen Jay Gould, Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology, Harvard University. In the Concert Hall, Center for the Arts, So. Main Street (Route 30). A book signing, during which Gould will sign copies of his books "Questioning the Millenium" and "Rocks of Ages," will follow in the upper Lobby, Center for the Arts, So. Main Street (Route 30)


9-noon Tours of Bicentennial Hall, Bicentennial Way off College Street (Route 125)

12:30 p.m. Science Media Panel, moderated by John Noble Wilford, science correspondent, The New York Times. Panelists: Paula Apsell, executive producer, "NOVA;" John Rennie, editor in chief, Scientific American; and Boyce Rensberger, director of Knight Science Journalism Fellowships, M.I.T. In the Great Hall, Bicentennial Hall, Bicentennial Way off College Street (Route 125)

3 p.m. Symposium Discussion, moderated by Margaret O'Brien, president, St. Mary's College of Maryland. Panelists: Middlebury College faculty from the sciences and humanities. In the Lecture Hall, Bicentennial Hall, Bicentennial Way off College Street (Route 125)



10:30 a.m. Dedication to take place in the Great Hall, Bicentennial Hall, Bicentennial Way off College Street (Route 125)

Keynote Speakers, Thursday, Oct. 14


"Scientific Promise, Ethical Controversy: Resolving Religious and Moral Conflicts about Scientific Research" -- James F. Childress is the Edwin B. Kyle Professor of Religious Studies and professor of medical education at the University of Virginia, where he is also co-director of the Virginia Health Policy Center. In July 1996, he was appointed by President Clinton to serve as a member of the newly formed National Bioethics Advisory Commission, and he has chaired its Human Subjects Subcommittee. Childress is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and in 1998 was elected to membership in the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences. He is the author of numerous articles and several books on biomedical ethics, including "Principles of Biomedical Ethics" with Tom L. Beauchamp, "Priorities in Biomedical Ethics, Who Should Decide?: Paternalism in Health Care," and "Practical Reasoning in Bioethics." He received his undergraduate degree from Guilford College, his divinity degree from Yale Divinity School, and his master's and doctorate from Yale University.

"Wonderful Life in a Full House" -- Stephen Jay Gould is a paleontologist, professor of geology, and curator for invertebrate paleontology at the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University. He also serves as the Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology and is an adjunct member of the department of the history of science. The author of more than 200 essays for his Natural History Magazine column, "This View of Life," Professor Gould is also a contributor to Discover magazine. Winner of a MacArthur Foundation Prize Fellowship, his books include National Book Award-winner "The Panda's Thumb," "The Mismeasure of Man," "Dinosaur In a Haystack," and "Full House." He received his undergraduate degree from Antioch College and his doctorate from Columbia University, and in 1995 was awarded an honorary degree by Middlebury College, serving also as its commencement speaker that year.

Science Media Panel, Friday, Oct. 15

Moderator: John Noble Wilford, science correspondent for The New York Times, began his writing career at The Wall Street Journal after graduating from the University of Tennessee and receiving a master's from Syracuse University. He then moved to Time magazine, and has been with The Times since 1965. There he has served as science news reporter, assistant national news editor, and director of science news. A highlight of this period was the start of "Science Times," a weekly section begun in 1978. A prolific author of books and articles, he is one of a select group of Times reporters designated as senior writer. As a reporter, Wilford has covered, among other fields, astronomy, paleontology, archeology, and space exploration, including nearly all major missions of the U.S. space program. In 1986, he was selected as a finalist in NASA's Journalist-in-Space Project to fly aboard the Space Shuttle (a project which has now been postponed indefinitely). Among his many adventures, Wilford has reported on the restoration of the nuclear test sites at Eniwetok and Bikini, flown through the eye of a hurricane to get a story on cloud seeding, submerged in research submarines off Florida and Bermuda, operated lunar-landing and space shuttle training simulators, and endured a wilderness survival school in Utah. In 1991, Middlebury College awarded him an honorary degree.


Paula Apsell has been executive producer of "NOVA" and director of the WGBH Science Unit since 1983. During her tenure, Apsell has guided "NOVA" from the era of limited channel choices into today's competitive world of multiple channels, digital television, and the Internet. "NOVA," NOVAMAX, and Science Unit specials have won a number of major awards, including the Emmy, the Peabody, and the AAAS/Westinghouse Science Journalism award. In 1998, the National Science Board of the National Science Foundation awarded "NOVA" its first ever Public Service Award, and in January 1999, "NOVA" was awarded the Gold Baton, the highest honor among the Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia University Awards. In 1994, Apsell was awarded the Bradford Washburn Award from the Museum of Science, Boston, for her "outstanding contribution toward public understanding and appreciation of science and the vital role it plays in our lives."

John Rennie, editor in chief of Scientific American magazine, spent several years at Harvard Medical School preparing for a research career before coming to the conclusion that he preferred writing about science to doing experiments. He has been a free-lance writer for the Economist and several other publications and has served on the staff of various science and technology newsletters. In 1989, Rennie joined Scientific American as a member of its board of editors, and in 1994, he was named editor in chief. During his tenure, Scientific American has been nominated for two National Magazine Awards, winning in 1996 for its issue that year titled "What you Need to Know About Cancer."

Boyce Rensberger, the director of the Knight Science Journalism Fellowships at MIT, has been a science writer and editor for more than 32 years, working at The Detroit Free Press, The New York Times, and The Washington Post. At The Post, he created the paper's acclaimed monthly supplement, "Horizon: The Learning Section." He was a writer for a PBS science series for children, "3-2-1-Contact!," and served as senior editor of Science 81-Science 84, a monthly magazine published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He has twice won the AAAS top award for science writing, and the most recent of his four books is entitled "Life Itself: Exploring the Realm of the Living Cell." Rensberger is co-director of the summer Science Writing Fellowships Program at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole.

Symposium Discussion, Friday, Oct. 15

Moderator: Jane Margaret O'Brien is president of St. Mary's College of Maryland, which, in 1992, was designated as a public honors college-one of only two in the country. A 1975 graduate of Vassar College, she joined the faculty of Middlebury College after receiving her doctorate in chemistry from the University of Delaware. In 1989, she was appointed dean of the faculty of Middlebury College. From 1991 to 1996, she served as president of Hollins College in Virginia. She remains active with her academic interest in undergraduate science and technology by serving as a member of the advisory board of the journal Chemical and Engineering News and as a member of the board of directors of EDUCOM, the national educational computing association that represents colleges and universities.