Gov. Deval L. Patrick took the stage of the Leslie Phillips Theater Thursday to announce the largest grant ever awarded to Holyoke Community College.
The school will receive $3.8 million from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center for the renovation of laboratories, classrooms and offices on the first floor of the Marieb Buidling. The reconstructed 13,000-square-foot space will become the Center for Life Sciences and include a sterile "clean room" for high-tech research and study.
"This will allow us to do a better job of carrying through on our mission -- and it's a simple one and a critical one," said HCC President Bill Messner, "providing access and providing opportunity. With this $3.8 million we will match the incredible faculty and staff we have with a first-class facility."
The renovation of the Marieb Building is the second of a two-phase project that will begin with the renovation of the newly acquired former Grynn & Barrett photography studio on Jarvis Avenue. Renovations of that building are scheduled to begin in the fall. When completed, the new Center for Health Sciences will become the home of HCC's nursing and radiologic technology programs, now both located on the first floor of Marieb.
Relocating those programs to the new building will open up Marieb for the renovation, expected to begin in 2015.
The renovated classrooms and laboratories will also include new equipment, according to Kathy Hankel, dean of the division of Health and Natural Sciences. Labs will all have computers and classrooms will incorporate "smart" technology, such as smart boards and clickers to track instant student responses. The grant will also allow for the purchase of other equipment, such as new centrifuges, and the installation of a state-of-the art "clean room," which will be the only clean room in western Massachusetts available for student training.
"What we're really most excited about is the renovation of the physical space," said Hankel.
Messner singled out HCC graduate Steve Richter, president and founder of Microtest Labs, for helping the college secure the grant. Richter's Agawam company, employs more than 100 workers.
"He, in my estimation, is what really swung the deal for us with the Life Sciences institute," Messner said.
In announcing the grant to a packed theater house, Patrick likened the investment in life sciences now to the building of highways, railroads and public colleges. Investing in education is just as important, he said.
"When it comes to really important things, we shape our future," Patrick said. "We don't leave it to chance. This isn't abstract policy. This is about the responsibility to leave the next generation something better."
President Messner said he was reminded of the adage, where much is given, much is required.
"We understand that by accepting this grant much will be expected of us," he said.
"We intend to deliver," he added, turning toward the seated Gov. Patrick. "We will not disappoint."
Read more about the grant on MassLive
Photos: (Left) Massachusetts Gov. Deval L. Patrick speaks at Holyoke Community College Thursday as HCC President Bill Messner looks on. (Right) Gov. Patrick talks to HCC student Matthew Zalucki of Belchertown. (Thumbnail) Gov. Patrick talks to reports in the HCC courtyard.