Lenoir-Rhyne University (LR) officially dedicated its new science wing on Friday, March 23, to Alex and Lee George in recognition of their support for the University and its students, as well as the community. Made possible through a $5 million contribution by the George Foundation, it is the cornerstone of LR's commitment to science education, housing the School of Natural Sciences, which includes biology, chemistry, physics/earth science, and environmental science programs.
"We are grateful to the George family for their long-standing support of Lenoir-Rhyne," said University President Fred Whitt, Ph.D. "This is a great day for LR and our surrounding communities. This new addition is transformational for the sciences at Lenoir-Rhyne and for the University as a whole. The space provides a competitive edge for students to conduct the highest-level research as undergraduates and affords expanded research opportunities for faculty to study progressive developments in their fields."
Located on the Hickory campus, the $15 million facility has nearly doubled the size of the original Minges Science Building and houses 14 state-of-the-art labs for biology and chemistry. The building also includes student study areas, including dedicated spaces for open labs for self-guided work; microscope room, outdoor classroom, faculty lab and a greenhouse that gives expanded possibilities for botanical investigations.
The George family has a long history with the University. Brothers Alex and Lee George moved to Hickory from Shelby in 1931 to begin their careers. Early on, they recognized the importance of LR to the growth of their home and business, Merchants Product Co., with humble beginnings of 12 employees. Today, it's known as Alex Lee, Inc., and is one of the largest food retail and distribution corporations in the southeastern United States with more than 10,000 employees. Boyd George, Lee's son and chief executive officer of Alex Lee, Inc., is the chair of the LR board of trustees and thanked those in attendance for the honor.
"If they were here today, I am sure that both my father and uncle would be somewhat chagrined to have their name on a building at this university," George said. "They would say that the names on the buildings are irrelevant. What is important is that the students of Lenoir-Rhyne receive the education that they need to realize their aspirations, the character development and moral grounding to make them valued contributors to their society, good citizens of their communities, and admired parents in their families."
Whitt thanked the many individuals and groups who helped bring to fruition the University's vision for this building. "To every donor, we say a profound thank you. With your commitment, we continue to support the teaching, the research, and the collaboration of science education," Whitt said.
Construction of the project, led by Lord Aeck Sargent under the direction of lead architect Scott O'Brien of the Chapel Hill office, began in November 2015 and was completed by fall 2017.