Evanston Township High School will enhance its STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) curricula with new science labs in the coming months and an immediate connection to Northwestern University’s faculty, research and other resources.

The ETHS Educational Foundation recently announced that Leonard Schaeffer (ETHS, ’63) pledged a gift of $500,000, provided that the Foundation raise an additional $100,000 by next June. The $600,000 will cover the entire construction costs of three STEM labs, to be completed by 2014.

“STEM is a leading-edge area,” said Bill Stafford, CFO of ETHS. “The new science labs will be a whole different structure – an amazing sea change.”

Mr. Schaeffer, founding chairman and CEO of WellPoint, one of the nation’s largest health benefits companies, said, “The people I met and the education I received at ETHS led to opportunities that changed my live. The STEM labs should help provide similar experiences for current ETHS students.”

While the Education Foundation spends its next several months fundraising for the STEM labs, the high school will deepen its connection with Northwestern’s STEM research with a direct connection to the University. Northwestern has created a satellite office at the high school, and Kristin Perkins, a member of Northwestern’s office of STEM Education Partnerships, will be the NU/ETHS partnership coordinator.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony for Ms. Perkins’ new office made visible a strong and ongoing partnership between the two institutions. ETHS Superintendent Eric Witherspoon opened the ceremony with that sentiment, and it was echoed by Northwestern President Morton Schapiro, Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl and other City and school officials.

“It gives the collaboration a home,” said Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward.

“The partnership began two years ago. This makes it more visible and more permanent,” said Dr. Witherspoon. “Mr. Schapiro had a vision of how Northwestern could connect with ETHS. This [partnership] has really energized what is going on at ETHS. … The University offers this amazing, rich resource in the community. We can get our STEM kids involved in Northwestern.”

“ETHS is one of the best public schools not just in the Chicagoland area but in the country,” Mr. Schapiro told the nearly 100 persons gathered at the Sept. 6 ribbon-cutting ceremony. “I think Northwestern has helped the high school – with STEM, the theater, foreign language and athletics. … To come in today and see that partnership – that sign in that office in this beautiful location [is a great experience]. … This is the base level [of Northwestern’s contributions. [We are] taking a really great school and making it a pre-eminent school.”

Mr. Schapiro also said, “The strength of the public K-12 system is important for enhancing property values. … This investment is not just philanthropy, it’s a moral obligation; it’s doing the right thing to make a major investment in the high school.” Noting that many faculty and staff members have children attending ETHS, he said, “If you want to make your faculty and staff happy, strengthen the high school.” He added that he hoped that the collaboration would encourage ETHS students to consider Northwestern when they are looking at colleges.

Mayor Tisdahl said, “We have a diverse community in the City of Evanston. What makes us all live together is that we … agree that K-12 education is the most important thing in the City of Evanston. People come here for the schools and have great faith in the schools. .. [This] is going to make ETHS known as the school you want your children to be in, not only because of ETHS but because of Northwestern.”

District 202 School Board president Mark Metz said, “It will have an impact on the quality of instruction. This is designed not just to help elite students but to help all students. It helps the community, it helps the school, and it helps Northwestern. “

“Northwestern is at the frontier of science,” said District 202 Board member Jonathan Baum. “This brings the knowledge and expertise they have to the high school. It will improve the teaching and improve the classrooms.”

“In the minds of many, the high school is the heart and soul of Evanston,” said Ald. Grover, “and the University has just embedded itself in the heart of Evanston.”