Montana State University

Foundation for Success: Gaines Hall grand opening Friday

September 13, 2010 -- By Melynda Harrison

Students, faculty, staff, alumni and the public are invited to the grand opening of the newly renovated Gaines Hall on Friday, Sept. 17. The dedication program begins at 1:30 p.m. in the main lecture hall, room 101, of Gaines Hall. An ice cream social and ribbon cutting will follow at 2:30 p.m. MSU photo by Kelly Gorham. Click here to view a slideshow of Gaines Hall.   High-Res Available

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Beginning this fall, the majority of undergraduates at MSU will take a class in the new Gaines Hall, which has been transformed from an antiquated building that was completely gutted and rebuilt into a state-of-the-art teaching facility.

Between the new cutting edge 300-seat lecture hall, language labs, instructional chemistry, and earth science labs, Gaines Hall is an integral part of undergraduate studies.

"This building will be one of our premier instructional facilities," said Joe Fedock, MSU provost. "We want our students to have a great place to study, meet and attend classes. This building is for them."

In addition to the lecture hall, chemistry labs and modern language lab, the 80,000-square-foot building will be home to biochemistry, geochemistry, biology, physics and earth science laboratories. Adjunct instructors, undergraduate advisers, chemistry teaching assistants and the modern languages department will be housed there.

Gaines Hall, built in 1961, was named after P.C. Gaines, who worked 43 years in the chemistry department, was a master teacher and served four times as acting president of MSU.

The Gaines Hall renovation had been on MSU Facilities Services' to-be-funded list for 22 years. It will be the first LEED certified building on campus, meaning its construction and operations are environmentally responsible. LEED refers to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, the internationally recognized certification of the U.S. Green Building Council. A LEED certified building must adhere to the following metrics: energy savings, water efficiency, cabron dioxide emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts.

The facilities in the old Gaines Hall were obsolete and bordering on unsafe, according to David Singel, head of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

"There is a much more modern way of teaching laboratory sciences," said Singel. "The new facility will help our students keep pace with the frontier of research."

Students in the Department of Earth Sciences will benefit from new laboratory teaching facilities for mineralogy, petrology, structural geology, geomorphology and a state-of-the-art facility for the study of drill cores from oil and gas wells. Students can move from a geology laboratory to the new geoapplications computer laboratory to perform computations based upon field specimens.

"The students will have much more time to examine and review specimens than they did in our limited facilities in Traphagen Hall," said Steve Custer, earth sciences department head.

Additionally, the Varricchio Family Paleontology Preparation Laboratory will have new equipment allowing students to remove fossil material from rock, mold and cast fossils, prepare specimens and conduct experiments. David Varricchio is an associate professor of paleontology and his father, Philip Varricchio, provided financial support for paleontology education and research at MSU, including the purchase of specialized equipment for the new lab. Between the classrooms and laboratories, common spaces provide room for students to gather for study groups and informal learning.

"These are comfortable places for peer to peer contact," Singel said. "They are places where students will learn from each other and help each other."

The $32.5 million building was finished well within budget, said Karen Hedglin, project manager. It was funded with appropriations from the 2005 and 2007 Montana Legislatures and was championed by Gov. Brian Schweitzer and local legislators.

"It's a spectacular new building that really reflects the quality of education we provide our students," Hedglin said.

The view isn't bad either. From different aspects in the building, students will be able to gaze across campus and at several mountain ranges.

"Doing chemistry and looking at the Spanish Peaks from the third floor--there is no better place that encapsulates 'Mountains and Minds,'" Singel said.

Contact: Jody Sanford, 406-994-7791,