By Robert Leitner
The university transformed a classroom in the Science building into a state-of-the-art lecture hall.
The project took about seven weeks to finish — with most of the work being done during winter break. It included renovating classroom 102, while the entire first floor hallway and lobby areas received interior upgrades, such as new technology, seating, lighting and windows.
“The natural light, along with the LED lighting, creates a better, brighter, more academically conducive environment,” said Mike Reca, vice president of facilities and university operations.
Alumnus and Board of Trustees member Bruce DiDonato, ’76, and his wife, Denise, funded the renovation through a naming gift that created The DiDonato Family Lecture Hall.
The lecture hall can now serve as a venue for classes and events. Seating 140 students, the room is handicap accessible with the addition of a ramp.
“As we continue to revamp and revitalize our facilities, it will help recruit new students and retain the students we already have, as well as prepare those students for the best opportunities when they graduate,” said Jonathan Millen, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
According to Millen, the project comes as the university is experiencing tremendous growth in the sciences with an increase of students gravitating toward disciplines in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
This work is part of the plan to renovate the first floor of the original 30,000-square foot Science building originally constructed on Rider’s Lawrenceville campus in 1961.
Rider took a phased approach to the Science building improvement, with the classroom and accompanying enhancements to the first floor being one of three renovations planned. Subsequent phases of the project will continue this summer.
“This project was done on a very condensed timeline,” said Reca. “I want to offer kudos to Provost DonnaJean Fredeen and Dean Jonathan Millen. Their cooperation in this quick design and turnaround, along with the work of the contractor and my staff, is paying off, because our students are now in a much better learning environment.”
DiDonato is a board-certified optometrist, who specializes in the medical management of glaucoma. In 1981, he founded the Campus Eye Group & Laser Center in Hamilton, where he serves as president.
“The university is grateful to Trustee Bruce DiDonato, ’76, and his wife, Denise, for making this truly generous gift,” said Vice President of University Advancement Jonathan Meer. “Their contribution goes a long way to completing a much-needed renovation of one of our most heavily used academic facilities in the science and technology building, and it also raises the bar for other alumni who studied in the sciences who we hope will step forward and join the campaign to fully renovate the science and technology building.”
When the fundraising initiative began, faculty members who work in the building were among the first to generously contribute, Meer explained. “Their participation in this campaign sent a signal to our alumni and to others how committed they are to the success of the sciences at Rider, and that is a very powerful statement for which the university is grateful,” he said.
Meer noted that the volunteer chairman of the campaign, Gary Nath, ’66, has helped drive the success through his giving and enthusiastic cultivation of others on the Science Advisory Board. Other contributions have come from the George I. Alden Trust of Worcester, Massachusetts, the State of New Jersey Office of the Secretary of Higher Education and many individuals.