SAVANNAH – Mercer University’s Board of Trustees, meeting today on the Savannah campus at Memorial University Medical Center, authorized construction to begin next month on a new Macon undergraduate science center, which will be named the Spearman C. Godsey Science Center in honor of Mercer Chancellor R. Kirby Godsey’s father and in recognition of Dr. Godsey’s multi-million dollar naming gift. Trustees also gave the green light for construction to begin on a new baseball stadium on the Macon campus. As previously announced, the new baseball facility will be known as OrthoGeorgia Park at Claude Smith Field in recognition of a lead gift provided last year by Macon-based orthopedic medical practice OrthoGeorgia.
A formal groundbreaking on the new science center will be held in the fall, but construction will begin in May on the 142,000-square-foot facility, which will include 60 teaching and research labs, classrooms, lecture halls and offices for Mercer’s biology and chemistry departments. It will be located between the School of Medicine and Willet Science Center, and at $44 million will constitute the largest single construction project in the University’s history. It is projected to be completed by December 2017.
“The University is deeply grateful to Chancellor Kirby Godsey for providing a significant gift for this long-needed science center,” said Mercer President William D. Underwood. “His generosity, combined with the other large financial commitments received to date, allow us to move forward on completing the facility, which will accommodate the University’s growing undergraduate enrollment. The new science center will also enhance research opportunities for our undergraduate students and faculty.”
“Everyone’s life is a story. The story of my father, Spearman C. Godsey, ended abruptly when he died because of an accident in 1935 – six months before I was born,” Dr. Godsey said. “I learned of my father from my brothers, Jack and Max, my mother, Chloe, and especially his mother, my grandmother, Janie Godsey Scott, who influenced my life in profound ways. Above all else, she taught me the meaning of grace. This gift is a tribute to this man who lives within me and my brothers and who, even in his absence, has shaped the content and character of our lives.”
Construction on OrthoGeorgia Park at Claude Smith Field is expected to get underway shortly after the home season ends in early May. The new stadium will accommodate 1,500 fans and feature premium chairback seating behind home plate. Other features include new dugouts, concession and restroom facilities, press box and camera positions for ESPN3 broadcasts, two open-air suites, a ticket booth, and the M. Diane Owens Entry Plaza.
In other action, the board approved a record $239.4 million operating budget for 2016-17, which represents a $2,261,556, or 1.0 percent, increase over the current budget. For the fourth consecutive year, trustees voted to limit the tuition increase for Mercer’s Macon undergraduate programs to 2 percent. Underwood noted that the University’s disciplined approach to holding down costs for students and their families, coupled with the national achievements of its students, has contributed to recognition by U.S. News & World Report and other college guidebooks of Mercer’s great value.
Students in the Walter F. George School of Law will see a 1.9 percent tuition increase, the first increase in four years, and Doctor of Medicine students in the School of Medicine will see a 2 percent increase in tuition, their first increase in five years. Increases for most other graduate and professional programs will be 3 percent or less.
Following the board meeting, trustees participated in a dedication ceremony for the Mercer School of Medicine’s new medical education and research facility at Memorial.
The $18 million Savannah campus expansion, which began in October 2014 and was completed in December 2015, includes renovation of approximately 26,500 square feet of classrooms, offices, research labs and library space in the Hoskins Center, as well as construction of 30,000 square feet of new space for additional classrooms, exam rooms and study areas. This expansion will allow for a 50-percent increase in M.D. student enrollment – from 160 to 240 students – in Savannah, equaling the number of M.D. students on the School’s Macon campus.