FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: OU Public Affairs, (405) 325-1701
NORMAN – The 160,000-square-foot, three-story Stephenson Life Sciences Research Center that houses faculty and student researchers in a facility designed to foster collaboration will be dedicated in a public ceremony Wednesday, April 13, on the University of Oklahoma’s Research Campus .
The ceremony begins at 10:30 a.m. at the center, 101 Stephenson Parkway. Speakers will be OU President David L. Boren, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry Chair George Richter-Addo, and Peggy and Charles Stephenson, for whom the life sciences center and its companion facility, the Stephenson Research and Technology Center, are named.
“The University of Oklahoma family and all Oklahomans are deeply grateful to Peggy and Charles Stephenson for their generous and visionary gift which made possible this exceptional research facility,” said OU President David L. Boren. “It will serve to both advance knowledge and help create a knowledge-based economy to give new opportunities to the next generation.”
Mr. and Mrs. Stephenson of Tulsa, whose gifts have helped fuel OU’s rapidly growing Research Campus in Norman, have supported OU’s research endeavors and the economic benefits to the state of Oklahoma that can result from those initiatives. Their $6 million gift to OU in 2002 helped build the Stephenson Research and Technology Center, which transformed an empty field into the OU’s burgeoning Research Campus. In 2006, they made another $18 million gift to help OU build the Stephenson Life Sciences Research Center, and in October 2010, the Stephensons presented OU with a historic $12 million donation to benefit cancer programs for all Oklahoma.
Charles Stephenson is a 1959 OU petroleum engineering graduate, retired as chairman of the board, president and CEO of Vintage Petroleum Inc., which was sold in 2006 to Occidental. Peggy Stephenson is executive director of the Stephenson Family Foundation, which supports many community programs. In philanthropy, parenting and life, they are longtime partners, having grown up in the southeastern Oklahoma community of Antlers.
The Stephenson Life Sciences Research Center houses the research and administrative functions of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry as well as a number of chemists, biochemists and other life science researchers and some 30 research teams composed of graduate and undergraduate researchers, technical staff, faculty, postdoctoral fellows and visiting scientists. It also houses several Research Support Services units, some of which also will serve the larger OU Research Campus as new units move to the area.
Glass is a dominant feature throughout the facility. Even the faculty offices feature glass walls, enabling students to observe their teachers as well as the reverse. Rather than dozens of isolated small laboratories dedicated to individual researchers, the Stephenson Life Sciences Research Center is home to interconnected flexible work spaces designed to encourage cross-disciplinary studies critical to human safety and wellbeing.
“We are a participant in the Carnegie Foundation’s Carnegie Initiative on the Doctorate, and we provide real-life hands-on training to all our students so that they can meet the challenges of tomorrow,” said Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry Chair George Richter-Addo. “The open-laboratory concept allows students in one specialty area to interact with other students and faculty in a general concept area. Such interactions promote a wider, deeper understanding of the problems being tackled by funded research.”
Also as a means of encouraging collaboration, the facility was designed with common spaces. Three large commons – one on each floor – encourage interaction between the scientist researchers, students and members of the community. All feature floor-to-ceiling windows, affording panoramic views of the Oklahoma skyline and OU’s landscaped grounds.
One space, in particular, was created with an eye to drawing visitors. The interactive education laboratory – designed to showcase how chemistry and life sciences research impacts everyday life – features a large picture window for close-up viewing from the second-floor community area. Richter-Addo noted that the merger between functional lab space and an open community commons is intended to entice the larger community to inquire and explore about what the building’s research teams are doing. To help draw interest, commonly found objects like birds’ nests, dirt and twigs (displaying inherent biological chemistry) are juxtaposed with scientific tools like centrifuges and high-powered microscopes.
“The building’s design takes the concept of chemical synthesis and applies it in a whole new way; by blending research and public space, it encourages a fusion between science and community,” Richter-Addo said.
In addition, a park between the two Stephenson research buildings is being created and named Peggy and Charles Stephenson Park, and an adjacent street is being named Stephenson Parkway in honor of the Stephensons’ ongoing support of OU’s research mission.
For more information about the dedication ceremony or for accommodations on the basis of disability, please call the OU Office of Special Events at (405) 325-3784.