A dirtless groundbreaking for new Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) labs took place on May 27 in the Terrace Room at Evanston Township High School. The ETHS Educational Foundation raised $130,000 to add to a challenge gift of $500,000 from ETHS alumnus Leonard Schaeffer (Class of 1963), said Foundation Executive Director Fran Caan.
Mr. Schaeffer is the founding chairman of WellPoint, the nation’s largest health benefits company by membership. He served as chairman and chief executive officer of WellPoint from 1992 through 2004 and continued to serve as chairman through 2005. He is currently the Judge Robert Maclay Widney Chair and Professor at the University of Southern California and is a senior advisor to TPG Capital, a private equity firm.
“I went to ETHS, and it changed my life,” said Mr. Schaeffer. He attended Princeton University and “became more successful than even my mother or my teachers imagined – but then I had no job. So what do you do when you have a lot of money and no job?” He turned to philanthropy.
“This money is going to be used well,” he said. “ETHS is an excellent institution with great administrators and teachers.”
Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl, a former member of the ETHS/District 202 School Board, said, “The best thing about Evanston is our diversity. ETHS is the glue that holds our community together.”
Superintendent Eric Witherspoon said, “This is an exciting day for us. … This is no small feat for ETHS. Leonard Schaeffer is from the class of 1963, and we have science labs that predate that. That doesn’t mean we haven’t been able to adapt our science curriculum, but we all understand how much more [easily] we could do 21st-century science in a facility that makes this happen.”
Two labs will be renovated and two new ones built, said Patrick Callahan of Studio GC Architecture, the company that will design the STEM labs. The space will be flexible and the furnishings movable, to allow lectures, forums and work spaces.
Science Department Chair Terri Sowa-Imbo said there are 32 science teachers and 28 classrooms – “We’re working on the math on that.” She added, “Five hundred students will have the opportunity to learn in the new space.”
Sarah Wagner, president of the ETHS Educational Foundation, said the Foundation “raises and distributes distribute funds to the high school in order to complement, enhance and enrich beyond the means of conventional public funding, opportunities that further the educational mission of Evanston Township High School. … We have not been here long, but we are beginning to make our mark.”
Construction is slated to begin June 10, and the labs should be completed in time for the fall opening of school, said ETHS Chief Financial Officer William Stafford.