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WCU names $110M science building for Apodaca

CULLOWHEE – A new $110 million science building at Western Carolina University will be named for former state Sen. Tom Apodaca, a graduate of WCU and staunch supporter of the university during his 14 years in the Legislature.

The WCU Board of Trustees unanimously approved the naming of the new science facility and new names for two existing campus buildings during its quarterly meeting on Dec. 9.
The board voted to name the new Natural Sciences Building in honor of Thomas M. Apodaca in recognition of his many years of service to and support of the Western North Carolina region and the university, including his time as a member of the WCU Board of Trustees and his advocacy for the Connect NC bond referendum in March 2016 that resulted in a $110 million appropriation for the science building.
The current Natural Sciences Building, constructed in the 1970s, lacks the space and the quality of laboratory facilities needed to adequately teach students in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (or STEM) fields, university officials said.
Design is expected to take place throughout 2017. Construction should begin near the site of the current Natural Sciences Building in August 2018, with completion and occupancy in June 2021, followed by demolition of the existing building and final landscaping by November 2021. An official recognition ceremony will be held during groundbreaking for the new building.

Elected to the state Senate in 2002, Apodaca rose quickly in the Republican ranks and became the second-in-command to Senate leader Phil Berger after the GOP took control of the Senate in the 2010 election.
“I am completely surprised, pleased and humbled by this recognition, and I look forward to the groundbreaking ceremony to express my gratitude and appreciation to the board,” Apodaca said upon learning of the trustees’ action. “It has been my privilege and honor to be of service to my alma mater both as a student and a trustee and to fight for the entire University of North Carolina system and public education during my time in the N.C. General Assembly.”
The trustees also voted to change the name of Central Hall to Judaculla Hall, pending endorsement by the Cherokee Tribal Council, to recognize the university’s historic connection to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and to acknowledge the unique heritage and history of the Cherokee people in the Cullowhee Valley that is home to WCU’s campus.
When the student residence hall located on Central Drive was completed in 2004, university officials gave it the generic name of Central. The new name, Judaculla, refers to a great giant who, according to Cherokee legend, resided in the Cullowhee Valley along the Tuckaseigee River.
Judaculla Rock, located south of campus, is a large soapstone boulder linked to the Judaculla legend that contains some of the best preserved and most significant petroglyphs (rock carvings) east of the Mississippi River.
“On behalf of the members of board, we are pleased to be able to recognize the many contributions of Sen. Apodaca to both WCU and to the mountain region, and to honor the university’s longstanding relationship with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians through these naming opportunities,” said Edward Broadwell, chair of the trustees.
The board also approved a subtle change in the name of Brown Cafeteria, a 55-year-old facility currently undergoing $22.5 million in renovations to transform a building once used as a cafeteria into a modern dining facility, with office space for residential living administration staff. With the trustees’ action, the structure becomes Brown Hall.
In other action, the board approved Vannoy Construction of Asheville as construction manager at risk for a residence hall project on the hill area of campus near Brown Hall.
The project may include renovation of the existing 58-year-old Buchanan Hall, an outdated facility with 180 beds, and an addition of space for up to 600 more beds to create updated residence facilities. Or, it could entail the demolition of Buchanan and construction of new facilities of up to 800 beds at or near the site.
The project currently is authorized with a $48 million pricetag, but actual construction cost estimates will not be available until advance planning and initial design is complete.