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Capitol College adds major new structure
May 5, 2005
by Joe Murchison - Laurel Leader
New college building to house classrooms, offices, computer labs
The high-tech rectangle of glass framed in steel sits amid the waving grass of the campus as if it were always meant to be there.
On Friday, Capitol College dedicated the simple but dramatic structure named for MCI founder and college benefactor William McGowan.
Over the years, McGowan, who died in 1992, supported the school with money, equipment and his belief in the college's mission.
The school, with an enrollment of 750 students, offers degrees in computers, business and engineering.
The William G. McGowan Academic Center is "a signature building for the campus," said architect Phillip Renfrow of Geier, Brown and Renfrow Architects, the firm that designed it.
With an expanse of transparent wall offering a clear view of the campus' pond and fountain, the building is positioned to be "an axis" to which other campus structures can relate, Renfrow said.
The goal is to create "a real sense of campus," he said, which had been missing with only one main classroom building.
The $7 million structure came in on time and on budget, said Wood. It houses classrooms, faculty offices, computer labs, conference rooms and areas for larger functions.
It is designed so that faculty offices and classrooms are close together to encourage the faculty and students to mingle.
"Faculty-student interactions will permeate the hallways," college President Dr. Michael T. Wood said at the dedication, standing in front of an arch of balloons in the school colors of red, black and white.
Calling the building "friendly and functional," Wood observed that even the tiles in the men's room were done in the school colors.
In the future the college plans to mount a permanent exhibit on the life of William McGowan in the building's "Heritage Hall."
Erecting the building meant removing a portion of a berm that was part of the old Beltsville Speedway. The old speedway is now the central portion of the 52- acre campus.
Because so many students take evening classes, the architects wanted the building "sitting there glowing in the night," and filled with natural light during the day, Renfrow said.
The glass will also lower energy costs, he said. So much light pours into the classrooms from clerestory windows that on any reasonably sunny day the sun will light the rooms.
During the summer months, a stainless steel meshed screen, yet to be installed in front of the building, will temper the sun's harshest rays and keep the building from overheating.
However, during the winter months, dark tiled floors will absorb heat from the sun, Renfrow explained.
With only three computer labs in the school's other building, the faculty is looking forward eagerly to using the new labs in the McGowan Building, Wood said.
An important part of the building is its Space Operations Institute. Run in partnership with NASA and Honeywell Technology Solutions Inc., the institute tracks satellites and trains students for careers in space technology.
Renfrow's firm has a 10-year history with the college. It designed the library addition and a snack bar for the school's MCI Building.
The McGowan Building is built so it can expand, Renfrow said. Budget constraints meant deferring an office block and a large conference area originally designed as part of the building.
At the dedication, representatives from Gov. Robert Erhlich's office and Prince George's County Executive Jack Johnson's office; Walt Townsend, president of the Baltimore/ Washington Corridor Chamber of Commerce; and Monsignor Andrew McGowan, the head of the Bill McGowan Charitable Fund, praised the school's role in providing well-educated workers for the economy.
They also praised the contributions of Bill McGowan to the school, including $3 million from his charitable fund for the McGowan Building.
This gift, a matching $3 million grant from the state and private donations have entirely paid for the structure, Wood said.
Wood gave credit for the building to Capitol's 27-year former president, William Troxler, who attended the dedication.
"So much of this (innovative) building is Bill Troxler personified," Wood said.
11301 Springfield Road
Laurel, Maryland 20708