Scripps and Pitzer Colleges Break Ground on New Science Center

By Emily Glory Peters & Bridgette Ramirez

Scripps College and Pitzer College have officially broken ground on an ambitious new science center and building expansion project slated to open fall 2024.

Leadership team at groundbreaking ceremony for Pitzer and Scripps Colleges’ new science building. L-R: Scripps Board Chair Lynne Thompson ’72; Scripps Interim President Amy Marcus-Newhall; Weinberg Family Dean of the Keck Science Department Ulysses J. Sofia; Pitzer President Melvin L. Oliver; Pitzer Board Chair Donald P. Gould

Shared between the two institutions, the multimillion-dollar initiative will create a state-of-the-art, 65,000-square-foot building next to the existing science structure featuring additional laboratories, classrooms, collaborative learning spaces, community courtyards and plazas, an art installation, and a greenhouse. The two buildings will be connected by a bridge to serve as a symbol of the bond between past and future scientific discovery.

On May 13, 2022, Scripps College Chair of the Board of Trustees Lynne Thompson ’72 opened the groundbreaking ceremony, expressing gratitude to her fellow Trustees; Scripps’ Business Affairs, Facilities, and External Relations and Institutional Advancement teams; and W.M. Keck faculty, students, and staff from Scripps and Pitzer Colleges.

Remarks were also shared by Weinberg Family Dean of the Keck Science Department Ulysses J. Sofia, Scripps physics and math major Daisy Achiriloaie ’24, Scripps alumna and Trustee Laura Vausbinder Hockett ’85, Pitzer alumnus and Trustee David Levin ’90, Pitzer President Melvin L. Oliver, Pitzer alumnus and Trustee Jonathan P. Graham ’82, science initiative donors and Pitzer parents Scripps Trustee Kalpana Singh Rhodes ’94, P’22 and James Rhodes P’22, Pitzer College Chair of the Board of Trustees Donald P. Gould, and Interim President of Scripps College Amy Marcus-Newhall.

“This ceremony is truly a culminating event—a victory,” said Marcus-Newhall, noting that the new center has been in development for more than a decade.

Pitzer College President Melvin L. Oliver

Pitzer President Melvin L. Oliver said, “As the building rises up here over the next several months, I predict it will come to represent the heart of our two college communities in many ways.” Oliver thanked former Pitzer College Board of Trustees Chair Harold A. Brown, current Board Chair Gould, VP, Chief Operating Officer, and Treasurer Laura Troendle, and the construction team, led by Assistant Vice President of Campus Facilities Patrice Langevin, for their work on the initiative. Oliver, who is retiring at the end of June, looks forward to returning to celebrate the building’s completion.

Prioritized in response to the sharp rise in student science majors and increased faculty scholarship, Marcus-Newhall credited the project’s realization thanks to the vision and advocacy of many, including past Scripps presidents Lori-Bettison Varga and Lara Tiedens as well as generous donors. The initiative was made possible in part through a contribution of over $4 million from the Pitzer Family Foundation, a $2 million gift from the W.M. Keck Foundation, a $2 million gift from Scripps Trustee Jennifer McDonnell P’18 and Jeffrey McDonnell P’18, a contribution of over $1 million from former Pitzer Trustee Kevin Stein P’20, a significant pledge from Pitzer alumnus and Trustee Jonathan P. Graham ’82 and his wife, Elizabeth Ulmer, as well as several gifts from others.

“We are so grateful for their expressions of support for our science program and for the many donors who have invested in its future possibilities,” said Marcus-Newhall. “Once the science facility opens in fall 2024, the future of science education and research at Scripps and Pitzer will be even brighter than it is today.”

Jonathan P. Graham ’82 explained that, as graduates of liberal arts colleges, he and his wife, Elizabeth Ulmer, are committed to investing in the sciences. “Whether you become a scientist or not, I think having access to the very best science education is critically important for the citizens who make decisions about what it is we do,” he said.

Dean Sofia also revealed that the two Colleges had selected a name for the new building during its construction: The Nucleus.

Ulysses J. Sofia, the Weinberg Family Dean of the Keck Science Department

“The Nucleus will enable faculty and students across the science disciplines to come together under one roof in classes and labs that enable critical thinking and discovery,” said Sofia. “It suggests the power of science as an elemental driver of knowledge and solutions for society.”

With help from donors, the initiative will also seek to hire multiple full-time faculty members to expand Pitzer and Scripps’ course offerings. With more than a third of Scripps students majoring in STEM disciplines and the number of Pitzer students seeking a STEM education growing threefold since 2002, this will help meet demand for additional classes while maintaining an intimate student-to-faculty ratio—a hallmark of the academic experience at Scripps and Pitzer.

The ceremony concluded with Scripps and Pitzer’s presidents and board chairs breaking ground with hard hats on and shovels in hand. Gould gave the closing remarks: “There are so many dimensions to The Nucleus. When you find one that inspires you, I hope you’ll consider helping to make it a reality.”

To make a gift in support of The Nucleus: A Scripps and Pitzer Colleges Partnership, please click here.

About Pitzer College

Pitzer College is a nationally top-ranked undergraduate liberal arts and sciences institution. A member of The Claremont Colleges, Pitzer offers a distinctive approach to a liberal arts education by linking intellectual inquiry with interdisciplinary studies, cultural immersion, social responsibility, and community involvement. For more information, please visit

About the W.M. Keck Science Department

The W.M. Keck Science Department is the interdisciplinary home to all biology, chemistry, and physics faculty for Pitzer, Claremont McKenna and Scripps colleges. The department is administered cooperatively and is housed within an 81,000-square-foot center located at the intersection of the three colleges. The department offers 13 discrete degree options, including dual-degree programs in partnership with schools of engineering and majors in conjunction with disciplines outside the sciences. The W.M. Keck Science Department provides comprehensive, interdisciplinary instruction in small class settings and numerous opportunities for students to conduct research.

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