#2 Renewing and renaming a campus icon

Top 10 Stories of 2023From now until Dec. 31, Grove City College is counting down our top news stories of the year. This story was published in the December 2023 GēDUNK.

When the $48 million renovation of Rockwell Hall is complete in 2025, the renewed and restored campus landmark will have new laboratories, instructional areas, collaborative spaces, and workrooms designed to empower students and better prepare them for work in their chosen fields.

It will also have a new name. The enhanced and expanded building will be rededicated as Smith Hall of Science and Technology at the completion of the work. It recognizes the contributions of time, talent, and treasure that tech entrepreneur and industry leader William W. Smith Jr. ’69 and his wife Dieva Smith have given the

College over many years. The Smiths are lead donors to the renovation project, which is a key priority of Impact 150: The Anniversary Campaign for Grove City College.

“Their support for this historic project will make it possible to equip countless students in the years to come to serve others with the highest proficiency and purpose,” said Edward D. Breen ’78, chair of the College’s Board of Trustees.

It’s not the first time the building has been adapted to meet changing student needs and technical advances – or the first time it has been rechristened. Built in 1931, it was the first academic building on Upper Campus and was known simply as the Hall of Science for its first 35 years. It wasn’t until 1966 that Rockwell was added to the name. Willard F. Rockwell Jr. was a former College Trustee and the CEO of Rockwell International. He contributed $150,000 toward renovating the Hall of Science that year after the engineering programs moved into the newly built Hoyt Hall.

Honoring the Smiths follows in that tradition, in which the College, which accepts no federal funds and is dependent on tuition and the generosity of private donors, honors those who support Grove City College and  embody its unique character. The Smiths fit the bill.

Bill Smith, who earned a degree in Business Administration, founded Smith Micro Software at the dawning of the modern computer age. His software initially helped people connect via modems and early wireless technology and eventually became a key part of the cellular revolution. He traces his success to the foundation that Grove City College provided and says he and his wife want to help the College continue providing students with the skills and knowledge necessary to make an impact on the world.

“It is an opportunity to give back, and the College gave me so much,” Smith said. “I didn’t know when I was at Grove City that I was going to be founding a tech company, or become the chairman and CEO, but they gave me the skills and they gave me the moral compass that was required. In this world today, for Grove City College to be a leader and maintain its relevance going forward, a strong science and technology approach is mandatory.”

“I was a business major … I didn’t spend a lot of time in Rockwell Hall, but it is at the center of campus. It’s the icon for the College,” Smith said. “It is important to save the edifice of the building while modernizing the interior to create an environment from a technology and science perspective that will allow students to study, to learn, to grow, and to develop, so that when they leave campus, they’re ready to go out and actually be an active part of society going forward.”


The red brick tower has stood sentinel over the Quad for more than 90 years, topping a three-story collegiate gothic style structure built in tandem with Harbison Chapel at the height of the Great Depression. That these were the first two structures built according to the Olmsted Brothers’ plan for campus was a deliberate statement about the College’s commitment to the integration of faith and learning.

When it opened, the Hall of Science was a state-of-the-art facility for scientific study, with well-equipped laboratories and classrooms where students and faculty could pursue what Grove City College’s famed benefactor J. Howard Pew called “cosmic questioning.” Dr. George Southworth, a 1914 alumnus and scientist of renown who spoke at its dedication, cited the “dismal cellars and dusty coal bins” that professors converted into lab space in his student days and said the new building provided “facilities comparable with their ability, their effort, and their loyalty.”

After nine decades of near-constant use and sometimes ad hoc adaptation to constant and exponential scientific, technological, and academic change – and compared to STEM Hall, the lab and classroom building that opened in 2013 – Rockwell was seen as outdated and insufficient to its original purpose. Plans to level it and build “STEM II” on its footprint were floated but ultimately rejected, in large part because of a desire to preserve the flagship building and its iconic tower. The obvious alternative was to renovate – and renew – the building as a critical piece of the College’s STEM infrastructure.

The 2021-22 renovation of Henry Buhl Library provided an example of how the College could preserve the classic exterior of a legacy building while reinventing its interior layout and upgrading critical mechanical systems to serve students in the digital age. Plans for Rockwell’s renovation were developed and approved as a top priority of the first phase of Impact 150.

Construction on the project began a few days after Commencement in May 2023 and will take most of two years. When the work is complete, the tower and the stately exterior will be about the only things left unchanged.


At the heart of the project is an almost top to bottom overhaul of the existing space in Rockwell and the construction of a two-story connector that will join the oldest academic building on campus with the newest – STEM Hall – to create a hub for collaborative research and discovery that will serve students now and into the future.

The Smith Hall of Science and Technology will be bigger and offer students a better environment to learn, conduct research, and prepare for careers of success and service. The renovation and the new construction will increase the size of the facility by 22 percent and create a total of 66,500 square feet of new space for science, technology, engineering, and entrepreneurship geared toward fostering collaboration between students from many disciplines and inspiring creative partnerships between entrepreneurship, science, and technology.

A central concept of the design is adaptability, with spaces designed to easily accommodate the changing frontiers of science and engineering education and research, and new degree programs that will prepare students for societal and economic opportunities that cannot be imagined today.

Rockwell’s four floors will be reconfigured and updated to accommodate modernized labs, offices, and classrooms for Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Exercise Science, and Engineering along with interdisciplinary workspaces and equipment adaptable for student teams and capstone projects, open work and study areas, and maker spaces to support student-faculty-industry partner collaboration and entrepreneurship.

The connecting structure’s first floor will feature a pair of project studios dedicated to Exercise Science and a commons area with a garage door entry to accommodate Baja racing cars and other outsized projects. Its second floor will house offices, molecular biology and cell culture labs, and a microscopy darkroom. One feature of the original Hall of Science – the Foucault pendulum – will be moved to the connector.

The tower will retain its original charm. The stained-glass windows that overlook campus will be restored, but the bare brick interior walls bearing the marks of thousands of Grovers who made their way to the top will remain. The scrawled signatures, initials, and messages on those walls symbolize a connection that all those impacted in the Hall of Science, or Rockwell Hall, or the future Smith Hall of Science and Technology share.

The renovation recognizes and renews Grove City College’s continued commitment to support a scientific education suitable to the opportunities of the times, where students pursue learning grounded in a Christian worldview, critical thinking, and a desire to serve humanity.

#2 Renewing and renaming a campus icon

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